How has Andy Murray's hip injury brought him to the brink of retirement and could an operation fix it?

Telegraph Sport
The Telegraph
Andy Murray has had years of hip problems - CameraSport
Andy Murray has had years of hip problems - CameraSport

What is the injury Andy Murray has been suffering from?

Since the week before the start of Wimbledon in 2017, Murray has been plagued by a worsening hip problem

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Murray has never elaborated on the specifics of the injury, but has admitted it is a long-standing problem and that he had been consulting Dr John O’Donnell, one of the world’s leading hip surgeons, about the issue since 2008.

"I have a severely damaged right hip," he said yesterday. "Having the operation last year was to give it the best possible chance of being better. I have been playing with hip pain for years, it wasn’t like it just started after the French Open against Stan [Wawrinka]. I just didn’t recover from that match and it pushed me over the edge."

If the internal lining of Murray's hip joint – which is known as the articular cartilage – is badly damaged, the prognosis is not optimistic. O’Donnell revealed to BBC Radio Five Live a fortnight ago that “it wasn't really at a stage where we could attempt to make his hip normal. It was just to try and make it as much better as we could.”

What treatment has he received?

Murray endured six months of rest and rehab after Wimbledon in 2017, before undergoing arthroscopic 'keyhole' surgery in Melbourne a year ago.

“I went in at 7.30am [Melbourne time] and I woke up from the operation about 10.30am", he told reporters after the operation. "I’m very optimistic because, having spoken to the surgeon, he was very happy about how it went. He felt my hip will be feeling better than it did a year ago. I was still doing fine a year ago, ranked No1 in the world.

"I’ve been quoted times for how long it’s taken for players to get back from the surgery I’ve had, and up to 14 weeks is what I’ve been given."

By the autumn of 2018, Murray's rehab had led him to Bill Knowles, a Philadelphia-based former ski coach who is regarded as one of the leading “return to play” specialists in the world. Knowles uses some unconventional methods, including cushioned assault courses and customised sporting challenges.

What sort of pain has Murray been feeling?

Although troublesome, Murray's hip did not become a major concern until early June 2017, when he found himself unable to walk without pain after the lengthy French Open semi-final against Wawrinka.

By the time Wimbledon came around a few weeks later, Murray admitted he was in almost constant discomfort. 

"At Wimbledon basically everything was hurting. I had never been in pain like that before. It's got better but still it's extremely tiring mentally when you are feeling your hip from the first minute that you wake up in the day and start walking, to when you lie down at night."

“The operation didn’t help with the pain at all. It’s what I have been struggling with. The pain is the driving factor. I can play with [physical] limitations, but the pain is not allowing me to.

Robert Brown, a physiotherapist at the Centre for Health and Human Performance (CHHP), told Telegraph Sport how Murray would likely have been feeling. "The chances are he would have felt a severe sharp pain around the front of his hip and/or groin region every time he put weight through it, and especially during landed rotation movements. 

"In my experience for an elite athlete to be affected by pain it would have been at around 7/10 or over. (0 being nothing, 10 being the most painful)."  

Could further surgery solve the problem?

Murray has already had two operations on the troublesome area: a hernia operation in December 2017, followed by O’Donnell's procedure the following January, which Murray said had taken a light-touch approach - a complete clear-out of the joint would probably have ended his sporting career.

"If I can get myself to 95 per cent of my best," Murray then claimed, "I believe that’s enough to compete at the highest level."

Murray yesterday raised the prospect of further surgery, and a more comprehensive procedure to try and fix the problem. "I have considered having another operation which is a little bit more severe than what I had before. If I have my hip resurfaced, it will allow me to have a better quality of life and be out of pain, and that’s something I am seriously considering right now.

<span>Murray has not ruled out further surgery on his hip</span> <span>Credit: ANADOLU </span>
Murray has not ruled out further surgery on his hip Credit: ANADOLU

"Some athletes have had that and returned to competing, but there’s no guarantees. The reason for having an operation like that is not to play professional sport, it’s to have a better quality of life.

"If I was to have an operation like that and rehab properly I would give my hip a chance to be as good as it can be, but I know it’s not an easy thing to come back to and play professional sport to a high level.

What are Murray's chances of playing at Wimbledon one last time?

Unclear, but not good. “In the middle to end of December,” Murray said yesterday, “during the training block, I spoke to my team, and I said ‘I can’t keep doing this and I need to have an end point.’

"Because it was just playing with no idea of when the pain was going to stop. I said to my team ‘Maybe I can get through this until Wimbledon’ – that was where I would like to stop playing. But I am also not certain I am able to do that."

What could Murray do next?

If his playing days are about to end, Murray would be in huge demand as a TV pundit. He made an impressive debut during the BBC's Wimbledon coverage last summer, demonstrating his dry wit, charming self-deprecation and, above all, some elite-level tennis insight.

The former world No 1 also bantered about the possibility of his brother Jamie playing in the doubles on Centre Court over Roger Federer, Henman being a “wine snob” at his wedding and – of all things – Love Island. He blamed teenage British player Katie Swan, who is signed to his sport agency, and his wife Kim for his watching the reality TV show, admitting “I have been watching it, not every night”.

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