Marc Marquez is to undergo yet another operation on his right arm, after problems of motion and weakness in the arm have persisted throughout the 2022 MotoGP season. At a press conference held on Saturday afternoon at Mugello, Marquez announced that he will fly to the US on Tuesday after racing in Mugello for surgery to counter the rotation of the humerus (upper arm bone) which has occurred as the bone has healed after the previous three operations on the arm.
The issue has been the result of the long and slow recovery from the accident during the first race in Jerez in which he broke his arm. He had that fracture plated, and then tried to race a week later, but was forced to withdraw when he felt a problem in the arm. A second surgery was required when the first plate broke, most likely as a result of the stress of trying to race a few days after surgery. The bone then became infected after that surgery, requiring a third operation in December of 2020.
In the press conference, Marquez made a point of saying that the issues he is suffering have nothing to do with the way the previous operations were carried out. "I want to clarify that the previous operation was done in a perfect way," Marquez emphasized. He had consulted several other experts, who all pointed to the surgery being carried out exceptionally well."All the doctors that I visited, Gilles Walch, a French doctor that is one of the top ones, in October. I visit Dr. Sanchez Sotelo and both of them said the surgery was done perfectly, because it was a very big infection."
Despite the best efforts of the surgeons, the consequence of the infection and prolonged recovery period is that as the bone healed, it didn't heal straight, the bone rotating slightly. That was causing Marquez pain while riding, and not allowing him to assume a natural position on the bike. "My problem now, what I feel on the bike, is that first of all I don't have the rotation, so on the straight, I have the arm more open than normal," Marquez explained. "Then as you see, on the left corners, I'm riding with the elbow completely up, because I try to compensate the rotation, but then in all the races this year, I had arm pump, then arrived the pain in the shoulder, then during the weekend, the pain in the left shoulder arrived, because I'm working in a double way."
This meant that Marquez could not ride naturally, and was having to ride with a completely different style. "And with all these things – always inside the limits, because I feel safe on the bike, but I need to ride really smooth. That's not my riding style, from one practice to the next, I have many ups and downs, because I cannot keep the same position on the bike. But I always understand where are the limits," the Repsol Honda rider said.
The decision to have surgery had come on Friday, Marquez explained. But the process before arriving at the decision had been much longer. He had first discussed the possibility of surgery after he crashed riding enduro in October, and was ruled out with vision problems. Marquez saw the opportunity to kill two bird with one stone, and use the opportunity to get the arm fixed, but his doctors had said the arm was not healed sufficiently.
"Together with the doctors we evaluated already long time ago, in October when I had the first injury with my vision, I said to them ‘why we don't consider to make something in that arm?’. But the bone was not fixed completely and they said the risk is too big," Marquez explained. So he told himself to keep calm and work, but the issues persisted.
Marquez consulted with his doctors again after Jerez this year. "I had another meeting with them after Jerez where we evaluated everything again, and then they start to consider another operation." Having gone through three surgeries on the arm in 2020, Marquez was not keen to go through another one. "It’s true that it was difficult and just I give all that was in my hands to avoid that operation because open again the arm is something that I don’t want. But is the way to recover."
Marquez was then referred to Dr. Sanchez Sotelo at the Mayo Clinic in the US by the medical team treating him in Madrid. "I’m really thankful to Dr. Samuel Antuña. I'm really thankful to Samuel Antuña, because he's very honest and he said you need to go to Joaquin Sanchez Sotelo." he explained. Dr. Sanchez Sotelo had been examining the humerus, and had made a 3D model of the arm, to evaluate whether the arm was strong enough, and how best to fix the rotation.
On Friday, Marquez received a phone call that the humerus bone was strong enough and healthy enough to cope with another bout of surgery. That's when the decision was made to have surgery next week and attempt to fix the problem permanently. The decision had come as a relief, Marquez explained, because they had identified the problem, and found a solution to address it.
That solution is to create a surgical fracture in the humerus and twist it back into a better position, before fixing it again. At the same time, the extra material inserted in his shoulder to prevent dislocation, in an operation in December of 2019, will be removed. The goal is to straighten the humerus and to create more motion, to remove the limitations in his shoulder.
The decision to operate means that Marquez will be out for a considerable period of time. The Repsol Honda rider himself could not give a target date for his return. "I don't have any idea," Marquez responded when asked. "Because the doctors say to me after the surgery, we will go step by step. But it will be a long time of course."
It was a sacrifice worth making, Marquez emphasized. He was not interested in suffering so much just to ride around battling for places outside the top five. "The way to go now, is because for me there is no way to riding like this and suffering too much. I'm not enjoying and every weekend is a nightmare, just to keep pushing. But it's true that my goal is the same one and is to come back. And you know, the way to do now is just to prepare for 2023."
The lesson Marquez learned from his attempt to return too quickly from that first operation is that the risks are greater than the rewards. The Spaniard has not chance of winning the title in 2022, and simply hoping for the occasional podium was not enough. "I know that I can be on the podium in some circuits. But it's not the way that I want to ride because I'm suffering a lot and I create another injury. I mean, I cannot continue riding like this."
If Marquez is focused on 2023, then the first objective might be to consider being ready to ride at Misano, and especially the two-day test on the Tuesday and Wednesday after the race. If he is not ready then, the next chance would be Valencia, and the one-day test after the last race of the season. Otherwise, it would be the Sepang test in early February next year. But if the surgery is a success, he is likely to be back and riding much earlier than that.
In the meantime, Marquez will be replaced by Honda test rider Stefan Bradl. And the MotoGP world will await a projected date for his return.
The press release from the Repsol Honda team appears below:
Marc Marquez to undergo further surgery on right humerus
Marc Marquez will undergo a fourth surgery on his right humerus, heading to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The Repsol Honda Team rider has suffered major limitations in recent months that have prevented him from performing at the highest level. As a result, he has elected to undergo surgery 18 months after his last operation.
Marquez, having not felt significant improvements in recent months and consulting with other specialists, together with his medical team have considered the option of a new operation. The six-time MotoGP World Champion will travel to the United States on Tuesday, May 31 for surgery, under the direction of Dr. Joaquin Sánchez Sotelo. Once the post-operative period has been completed, he will return to Spain to begin his recovery. Doctors will then assess Marquez’s condition and his recovery period.
"Unfortunately, I have to take a break from the 2022 season that will keep me away from competition for a while. After all these months of intense work with my new medical team in Madrid, my physical condition has improved and I have reduced the discomfort in my right arm to be able to compete at the Grands Prix, but I still have significant limitations in my humerus that does not allow me to ride the bike properly and achieve the goals I have always set for myself.”
"It is for this reason, that together with my medical team, Dr. Samuel Antuña and Dr. Angel Cotorro, and after consulting with specialists from the Mayo Clinic, that I have made the decision to carry out a new operation with the aim of improving my position on the bike that will allow me to ride without the current limitations. Personally, I have the maximum motivation and enthusiasm to continue working and to make the effort to return to compete at the highest level."
"I want to thank all the support that my family has always shown me, those trusted people around me, the Repsol Honda Team, my entire medical team and especially all the fans who are always there with me in the good and bad times."
Dr. Sanchez Sotelo
“Given the lack of sufficient clinical improvement with the rehabilitation treatment, and advised by his medical team, Marc Marquez will undergo a new surgical intervention at the Mayo Clinic in the US, to improve the discomfort in his right arm derived from the loss of mobility in the arm.”
“The surgery will consist of the extraction of the osteosynthesis material from his shoulder associated with a humeral osteotomy to increase the external rotation movement of the arm and maintain shoulder stability.”