The return of Juan Pablo Montoya

There is no question that McLaren talked down the seriousness of Juan Pablo Montoya's shoulder injury in Bahrain, reporting only of a minor fracture of the left scapula. The team said that it was quite sure that Montoya would be back in action in Imola. Now, in the run up to the Spanish Grand Prix we will have to see whether or not the Colombian returns to action or whether his return to F1 will be delayed until Monaco on May 22.

The scapula is the large flat bone that forms the back part of the shoulder. It is covered on both surfaces by muscles which attach it to the ribs, to the spine and to the muscles in the arm. There does not appear to be any problem with Montoya's shoulder joint (which is very good news) and there do not appear to be any associated injuries (which is very rare because normally a fracture of the scapula is associated with other, more serious, injuries). In fact, only 10% of scapula injuries occur without other major damage because the forces needed to break the scapula are very high. Vehicular trauma is almost always cited as the most frequent cause of scapular fractures.

A broken scapula usually requires a simple arm sling to be worn for about a month. This is designed to immobilise the shoulder while the bone heals. The average healing time for this fracture is 6 to 8 weeks and it is essential that complete bone union occurs to avoid a repeat injury. The bone growth can be stimulated by increasing blood circulation in the injured area. This can be achieved with hot baths, heat lamps, heating pads, heat ointments and whirlpools. The problem for a professional sportsman is that during the healing process there is inevitably going to be degradation of the muscles in the injured area and these will need to be built up again.

The accident occurred on March 26 and so thus far Montoya has been out of action for just over five weeks. It may be that the injury has healed more rapidly than nature normally allows and that Juan-Pablo's muscles are back to full strength but on the face of it, medical science would seem to suggest that this is unlikely.

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