You probably saw the photo of CIB Mohamed Abouelghar on his hospital bed in the media…
The problem first materialised for at the CIB Black Ball Open in March 2021:
“I had the pain before Black Ball in March last year, I just felt something wasn’t right with my right knee and I played the tournament and lost to Ali. I felt it just wasn’t right and I even had a physio during the match as the pain was increasing.
“From that point on I could feel the pain constantly and I couldn’t train the way I wanted to train but I guess I did what most athletes do and I just took painkillers, had physio and tried to be conservative with my training until it came to a point it was just hindering my performance big time.
“I was feeling it for all of 2021 and sometimes it was too bad, sometimes it was okay to play with but I never had the freedom I needed to have on court in terms of movement and it was constantly on my mind and it just wasn’t how I wanted to be on court.”
Delaying the inevitable surgery
The tipping point for Abouelghar, one of the games most dynamic movers and incisive shotmakers, came when a defeat to Paul Coll in the quarter finals of the Qatar Classic in November, in which he had a match point, made him realise that drastic action to help him win his battle of the wounded right knee was needed.
“I had a good run in Qatar and I lost to Paul having had a match point but I had a lot of painkillers before that tournament and after it I came back and saw an orthopaedic surgeon who recommended that we should leave surgery as a last resort and try a PRP injection.
“This basically means they take blood out of you and then take the plasma out of the blood and then inject it into the injury site to heal it.
“So I decided to do that after Qatar and I went on and played Canary Wharf and I remember going into my match with James and I was speaking to Derek Ryan, the PSA head physio, and I was seeing him every day for treatment and I couldn’t train before that match due to the pain. I lost and on the way back to the hotel I knew I had to see a surgeon and take things forward.
“Then I saw another surgeon in Germany who recommended another injection. I took it, and I was training and feeling fine then at the beginning of January I started feeling the pain again and I knew this was not how I wanted to train or approach my games.
“I was having to rest for two or three days after every training session and this was no way to take me where I wanted to go in terms of results and rankings.
“I remember there was a day, and I recall it well, I had trained and I could not get up the stairs and the pain was really sharp and I contacted my doctors and they set up an MRI scan, and then we had a conference call with my team and the doctors and we made the call that surgery was the best way forward.
“If I wanted to achieve what I wanted then I was never going to be able to do that with the pain in my knee and how it stopped me training the way I needed to do and the knee was just putting too many limitations on everything.
“The problem is behind my knee cap, I had a little cartilage lesion, and this part of the knee takes a lot of pressure with the lunges and explosive movement going into the corners.
In January, Abouelghar was forced to bow to the inevitable and take the option of knee surgery and in London three weeks ago went under the knife for a successful procedure that now has the World No.14 looking forward to a return to training in June.
“The surgery was an attempt to fix that and to stop the bone being exposed and ensure that I had some sort of cartilage to absorb the impact in that area.
“I had the operation three weeks back in London and now I am doing the rehab and my surgeon, Jonathon Bell at the Parkside Hospital in Wimbledon, did a great job and he is very happy with my recovery, but it is a season ending injury for me and I am fine with that.
“I had spoken with the doctor before the surgery and I had decided I would leave this season out then come back and play to my full potential rather than playing to 70% or 80% and playing with no peace in my mind.”
Whatever it takes
“I told the surgeon I will do whatever it takes to make it back, it will be a long road ahead, but I am positive I will come through it and that by the end I will be able to do what I want to do with my squash,” said Abouelghar.
“Right now, I am still on crutches and hopefully by the end of this week I will come off them, then I head back to Egypt on Thursday and when I return to Egypt, hopefully I will get into the gym back home.
“I have always had great people around me in my team and my girlfriend and family they have been a great support to me and I draw strength from them and I have a lot of faith in myself and the rehab process.
“My coaches Mohamed Farid and Mohamed Reda have been through everything with me for 10 maybe 15 years and my mental coach Ahmed Salah has also been a great support and we are working on maybe getting out of this with a better approach to the game and better mindset.
“Also, my girlfriend Soraya has been a great support to me, she has helped me so much and we talk about everything, really her words were very important to me when I was going through tough times.
“I hope to be clear to return to training in June but as there no tournaments in July and August I will take this time to train and build up some good form and start back in September.”