Marc Márquez has had a third operation on the fractured right humerus he injured at the opening round at Jerez, and then broke again some ten days later. After many hours of speculation, the Repsol Honda team issued a press release confirming earlier reports that the Spaniard had undergone an operation at the Clinica Ruber in Madrid, to fit a new plate and take a bone graft from his hip to promote bone growth. The third operation was deemed necessary after the fracture has failed to heal as quickly as hoped.
Márquez' woes began at the first MotoGP race of the 2020 season at Jerez, after the Repsol Honda rider ran wide at Turn 4 and rode through the gravel on lap 5, and lost 9 seconds as a result. The Spaniard rejoined, and then set about slicing his way through the field, eventually ending up in third place and hot on the heels of Maverick Viñales.
It all went wrong again for Márquez on the exit of Turn 3. The rear of Márquez' Honda RC213V stepped out, bit, and flicked him off into the gravel on the outside of the corner. As he tumbled through the gravel, the front wheel of his Honda smashed into his right arm, breaking his humerus.
Márquez was lined up for surgery on the Tuesday after the first Jerez round, and by the following day was sending videos to his team of himself doing pushups on his freshly plated arm. He persuaded Honda and his team to try to race at Jerez 2, and was passed fit to try by the circuit medical staff.
That turned out to be a bad idea. Márquez sat out all of Friday, and rode in FP3, posting a respectable time just 1.3 seconds off the pace of Maverick Viñales. But in FP4, he felt a sudden tweak in his arm, and realized he was unable to continue. He withdrew, in the hope of being fit to race two weeks later at Brno.
Márquez' hopes were dashed a week later, when he got up to open a heavy sliding glass door to let his dogs out of his house, and felt something move inside the arm. He was taken to hospital, where scans revealed that the plate inserted had failed to unite the bone fragments, which had separated again.
Since then, Márquez has had scans on his arm every week to monitor progress on his arm, but the fracture has failed to heal properly, creating what is known as a non-union fracture. Márquez has put off a third operation to treat this problem for as long as possible, in the hope that the arm would heal of its own accord. But that has failed to happen.
Márquez finally opted for further surgery at the beginning of the month, with a specialist clinic in Madrid performing the surgery. The operation removed the old plate and replaced it with a new one, and took a bone graft from his hip to promote bone growth. This operation has proven to be very successful in the case of a non-union fracture, as the bone taken from the crest of the hip has a lot of blood vessels running through it and very strongly promotes the growth of new bone. It is often used in cases where bone growth has been much slower than expected.
Though the success rate for the procedure used for Marc Márquez is high, he still faces a long recovery period. Typical recovery period for a non-union fracture of the humerus treated with corticoperiosteal free flap is six months, though that can vary from between 3 and 12 months. That would mean that Márquez is extremely likely to miss the Sepang test scheduled for the middle of February, and potentially the start of the 2021 season, due to kick off at Qatar on March 28th.
That, of course, presupposes that the provisionally scheduled 2021 test and race calendars can go ahead as planned. Given the experience of 2020 with the Covid-19 pandemic, there are good reasons to believe the first part of the season may be disrupted or rescheduled, until the European winter spike in Covid-19 cases eases off, and the effects of vaccination programs start to kick in. Any delay or rescheduling would give Marc Márquez additional time for his recovery.
If Márquez is forced to miss the first few races of the season, the Repsol Honda team will once again be forced to look for a replacement until the eight-time world champion is able to race again. Stefan Bradl would naturally be a candidate, but there is a good chance that Honda might turn to Andrea Dovizioso. The Italian had been in extended talks with HRC for a role as test rider and replacement in the case of injury, but those talks had failed when the two parties had been unable to come to terms. But with a role as a straight replacement rider, there would be fewer complications putting Dovizioso on the Repsol bike.
All that is still some way in the future, however. First Marc Márquez and Honda will have to wait to see how his recovery progresses. That will take at least a month, and possibly more, before the speed of his recovery can be assessed.
The Repsol Honda press release announcing the surgery appears below:
Marc Marquez undergoes a new operation
Marc Marquez has undergone a new operation on his right arm as a result of the slow healing of the humerus bone, which has not improved with specific shock wave treatment.
Today the rider has undergone surgery at the Hospital Ruber Internacional, in Madrid, for a pseudarthrosis of the right humerus.
The surgery, carried out by a team made up of doctors Samuel Antuña, Ignacio Roger de Oña, Juan de Miguel, Aitor Ibarzabal and Andrea Garcia Villanueva, consisted of the removal of the previous plate and the placement of a new plate with the addition of an iliac crest bone graft with a corticoperiosteal free flap.
The surgical procedure lasted for eight hours and was uneventful.
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