Tennis. Rafael Nadal’s injections at Roland-Garros raise questions

Rafael Nadal in his final victory at Roland Garros against Casper Ruud on June 5, 2022. (© AFP / Thomas SAMSON)

This Sunday, June 5, 2022, the monstrous Rafael Nadal won his 14the Roland-Garros title, his 22nde in a grand slam.

Revealing that he uses anesthetic injections at Roland Garros every day, the champion opened the debate on this legal medical practice, between ethics, anti-doping regulations and differences with other sports.

What does the regulation say?

“We blocked (the pain) by injecting anesthetic before each match,” explains Rafael Nadal, who suffers from Müller-Weiss syndrome in his left foot.

Sleeping products are not prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency’s World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code.

Another way to deal with pain, the use of corticosteroids is on the other hand prohibited in competition period from 1er January

“The use of anesthetics is a practice that has certainly become more common since this year, as it is all that is possible to limit pain locally,” he said.AFP Dr. François Lhuissier, President of the French Society of Exercise and Sport Medicine (SFMES).

However, an athlete could use corticosteroids in competition, possibly by injection, if he or she had an Authorization for Therapeutic Use (AUT).

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No committee would give permission for the Christmas motif.

Doctor Lhuissier

“An AUT is when you have a health problem that will limit you in daily life, not just in sports, such as asthma or hypertension. The AUTs are not given to allow athletes to return to their sport, but to return to a normal level of health. »

And in other sports?

“In football, the infiltrations are widespread,” he saidAFP from a general point of view, Dr. Jean-Pierre de Mondenard, a sports doctor, who maintains a blog (

“But these are not treatments, you treat the result but not the athlete,” he warns.

In athletics, “these are not at all common practices, at least in France,” he saysAFP Dr. Antoine Bruneau, doctor of the French teams of the French federation.

“Whether it’s the use of an anesthetic or the injection method, both are not common at the time of the competition. It’s probably more common in championship team sports with games every weekend. »

“It is part of the therapeutic arsenal within our reach. But putting a sleeping nerve on a lower limb would cause problems with balance and gesture control. There is a difference between running races and tennis slides and the quality of foot needed for a jump or an athletics race where we need all the sensations, I find it hardly possible in principle. »

An ethical practice?

Only cycling, a sport commonly mocked by the issue of doping, has gone beyond the WADA by including in its sports regulations the prohibition of any injection in the context of a competition.

Engaged with his team in the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC), Thibaut Pinot rebuked Christmas on Twitter “today’s heroes …”, then developing on the ethics of high-level sport: “We see that too many athletes have used this type of practice over the past few weeks.

“From an ethical point of view, the only thing that interests me is whether it is authorized or not,” said Mr. Luissier. The AMA has ruled on this issue. They have ethics specialists. I wouldn’t do it for myself, but if an athlete asked me to, as long as I’m allowed to, I would. »

For Mr. Bruneau, the new corticosteroid regulations “are a message to the world of sports about injections” and their symbolic needles.

A health risk for Christmas?

“The injection of anesthetics will have no effect on your health,” he said. Luissier. “On the other hand, being anesthetized makes the foot and its support feel less, which increases the risk of a sprain. »

“Pain is a natural alarm signal for the human body,” Bruneau recalls. I wonder if it is beneficial to anesthetize an athlete during a competition depriving of sensations … “

Source: © 2022

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