Neeraj Chopra had planned to go full throttle on his return to India in April, from Potchefstroom where the elite athletes camp was being held. However, the star javelin thrower had been feeling a soreness in his right elbow since November and it had restricted his throwing to near zilch when he was away in South Africa.
Chopra was focusing on physical conditioning and working with physiotherapists, one an Indian and another based in South Africa, but it all came undone in mid-April. The 20-year-old had to prematurely end a practice session because of discomfort in his elbow and withdrew from the Asian Athletics Championships.
On Thursday, Chopra, the Commonwealth Games champion as well as the Asian Games gold medallist, was operated upon by orthopaedic surgeon Dinshaw Pardiwala at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai. The arthroscopic surgery was performed on the right elbow of his throwing arm to remove bone fragments.
As of now, it is unclear if he will be able to return to form before the World Championships in September-October in Doha.
“Undergone elbow surgery in Mumbai by Dr. Dinshaw Pardiwala. Will require some months of rehabilitation before i can start back with throwing. Hoping to return stronger. Every setback is a setup for a comeback. God wants to bring you out better than you were before,” Neeraj said on his Twitter handle.
National javelin coach German-born Uwe Hohn had hoped that Chopra would get back to 100 per cent fitness by March but that clearly did not happen. Hohn had said in February that the root cause of the injury was the ‘low position’ of the throwing arm which led to increased stress on the joint and a near-permanent inflammation in the elbow. Thye coach had feared that if Chopra didn’t alter his technique, it could lead to a more serious injury.
Chopra’s rehabilitation is likely to take ‘at least a couple of months’, according to Manisha Malhotra, the head of sports excellence at JSW Sport, Chopra’s agents. However, Chopra will also have to also strengthen a stressed ligament once he recovers from the elbow surgery.
“He had some bone fragments that were chipped off and they were floating in his elbow, which is a normal thing in javelin throw because of the recurrent use… tennis players mostly get it in the shoulders but in javelin, in Neeraj’s case, you get it in the elbow. There was an opinion of a Belgian doctor who said there could be a tear in the ligament. However, the CT scan and MRI did not show any tear,” Malhotra said.
There would be instability in that ligament but not any tear. So then, we consulted 5-6 doctors and all of them were of the opinion that you have to remove these bone particles. That was not a doubt. Dr Pardiwala had clinically tested him a few times and Neeraj was comfortable with him,” she added said.
Chopra became a household name when he won the javelin gold at the 2016 IAAF World U-20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland. His national record stands at 88.06 metres, which he registered while winning the gold at last year’s Asian Games.
If he is unable to participate at the World Championships, his next big target will be the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. The qualifying standards for the Olympics in the men’s javelin throw is 85 metres, a distance which is well within Chopra’s range. However, the big question will be whether Chopra will be able to consistently cross the 90-metre mark post-surgery, a likely requirement to be a contender for a medal at the Games.