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Post-surgery, Son may have to sit out World Cup qualifier

June 19,2017
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[AP/YONHAP]
Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hopspur underwent a successful surgery on his right arm Friday, but his participation at the upcoming World Cup qualification match against Iran in August remains uncertain.

Son injured his arm in a bad landing while competing for the ball during the Korean national football team’s final-round qualifying match against Qatar on Tuesday. The injury forced Son to make an early exit from the game, and he returned to Korea the next day wearing a cast. A medical examination found that Son had fractured his right radial bone connecting his elbow and wrist.

On Friday, Son underwent an hour-long surgery to set the broken bone and hold it in place with a metal plate and screws. Son will be hospitalized for a few more days, though he’ll have to wear a cast for longer. He’s expected to sit out of games for at least four weeks, and full recovery may take up to 12, forcing him to miss out on Hotspur’s preseason matches scheduled to start July 3 and possibly the English Premier League opener against Newcastle United on Aug. 12.

“Usually after a surgery, a cast or splint is required for eight weeks, and 12 weeks is needed for the bone to knit together,” said Song Jun-seop, a doctor who used to work for the Korean national football team and is now director at Seoul JS Hospital.

While Son’s right arm bone is healing, it will certainly be sensitive to extreme activity, but in intensive sports like football, an injury can affect a player even after it fully recovers. There is the possibility that Son might not be as actively engaged in future matches out of fear of reliving the injury again.

If Son’s recovery takes longer than expected, the Korean football team may have to do without him in its remaining World Cup qualifiers against Iran in August and Uzbekistan in September. Since Korea is ranked second with just one point ahead of Uzbekistan, they have no other choice but to win both matches in order to secure a spot in next year’s World Cup. The absence of Son will impact the team significantly.

There is some precedence for a speedy recovery. In April, when Koo Ja-cheol of FC Augsburg injured his right ankle and was expected to sit out for five weeks, he managed to return a lot earlier than expected, after just two weeks. Now, the Korea Football Association is praying for a similar miracle, especially if they want Son in the forthcoming match against powerhouse Iran.

“The doctor in charge said Son will be able to follow regular training after about four to six weeks,” said Lee Jae-cheol, a spokesman for the Korea Football Association. “Unlike leg injuries, where the rehabilitation process is strict, arm injuries are a little different. If Son goes through rehabilitation training well, he will be able to play against Iran.”

BY PARK RIN [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]