Why does Rafael Nadal still have a bandage around his knee?

After a seven month hiatus for rest and recovery, Rafael Nadal is back on court, playing the best tennis of his life. On court, he always appears with a bandaged left knee, which he has ceremoniously ripped off after a victory of late. If you’ve wondered what that bandage is for, read on. Lola Hernandez writes about it and other “quirks” in an article on lainformacion.com. Read the original article in Spanish on the website. Here are excerpts from the article, roughly translated into English. 

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Rafa Nadal wears, since reappearing after seven months out with a pateller enthesopathy, a lesion of the posterior fibers of the patellar tendon that subsequently inflame the Hoffa fat surrounding the tendon, a white ribbon on his left knee, a sort of a bandage around the kneecap.

What is it for? Rafa Nadal himself admitted in a press conference during the Mutua Madrid Open that in reality it isn’t of any use at all.

Not so. Alberto Muñoz Soler*, a specialist in Psychiatry, Physical Education and Sport Medicine, tells us that the white ribbon is important.

“It helps you stay alert in that zone. It’s a psychological protection. Putting the band on the knee makes you aware that you cannot make foolish moves in that area. It’s a kind of a warning that tells you that you can not push the limit,” says Dr. Muñoz.

“The band is like a voice telling you it’s wrong so be careful. It has no therapeutic effects, although in theory it does hold, in this case, the knee,” says the doctor.

Rafa Nadal’s rituals calm his anxiety

  • Towel: Rafa follows a meticulous routine when sits in the chair during breaks. He puts the used towel on the right side of the seat and cleans his legs above the knees.
  • Bottles: He has two bottles perfectly aligned diagonally. He takes the first bottle, opens it, drinks, and then leaves it in the same place, following the base mark of the bottle. He then takes the second bottle, opens it, drinks and positions it exactly in the same place.
  • On Court: Before a serve, he touches his shoulders, hair band, ears and nose.

Dr. Alberto Muñoz Soler explains why these rituals:

“It’s a routine; it calms his anxiety. It’s a sense of control. It is a strategy of concentration. It’s a sequence of behavior that’s reassuring.”

And then there is another, less “aesthetic” behavior that everyone associates with Rafa…

“It’s an obsessive behavior because if you don’t do it exactly, you feel bad and it can cause anxiety. It is a superstition; we call this a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you don’t do this ritual you will go wrong,” says Dr. Muñoz, who treats Olympians*.

“Psychiatrists who specialize in sports medicine use it as a placebo. Athletes have magical thinking; the more they suffer with stress, the more they are likely to accept all kinds of resources to alleviate it. People have faith in potions” says Dr. Muñoz.

*Disclaimer: We do not know or imply that Dr. Alberto Muñoz Soler treats or has ever treated Rafael Nadal


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