NEWCASTLE Eagles skipper Andrew Bridge will be fit for the start of their BBL title defence after going under the knife to cure a persistent knee problem.
The long-serving Eagles skipper has been troubled by pain related to a knee cartilage injury for six months, but had a successful operation on Thursday.
The original prognosis was te weeks’ rest, but doctors have told him he will be able to start rehab in six – giving him plenty of time to be back up to speed for the beginning of the BBL campaign in September.
It is great news for Eagles player-coach Fab Flournoy, who is predicting a new Bridge when the 2010/11 season gets underway.
He said: “He had the surgery on Thursday and the doctors have told me it has been a huge success. The original recovery period was about ten weeks, but it is down to six now and that says a lot to me. The doctors usually tell you it is longer, so the fact they have bumped it down has made both Bridgey and I very positive he will be back quickly.
“For Bridgey it will be a big relief because he has been playing with a bit of pain in his knees for a while, and it was getting progressively worse. This gives him plenty of time to rehab and he should be totally pain-free next season and be at the top of his game again.”
Even though Bridge is likely to be back in double quick time, he is faced with the prospect of a more major operation in five to ten years. The cartilage behind his knee cap has worn down to virtually nothing and, while the cleaning up operation will solve the problem for now, he may need to go under the knife again after his career is over.
Doctors told Bridge he could have a complex ‘microfracture’ procedure, which would involve creating small fractures in the knee bone and ‘growing’ new cartilage – but that would mean a year out of the game.
Flournoy added: “Bridgey had that option, but I think he felt that with everything we are trying to do next season, a year out of the game was not really an option.
“This should work fine and sort the problem out, but he will need to have more surgery to get rid of the problem.
“Bridgey is a guy who is very rarely injured, he takes good care of himself and he wants to be as right as he possibly can, so it is good for him that he will be right again. He is an important player at our basketball club, and it is good he is going to be without that pain which has troubled him.”
While Bridge rehabilitates, Flournoy intends to use the next few weeks to work closely with the club’s young players like Aaron Nielsen and Jamie Glen.
He has earmarked a bench role for both and will also look to promote some of the players in the club’s development programme after they performed so well against the Scottish national side recently.
Flournoy will also take a trip to the Great Britain future stars camp to assess whether there are players there who he could recruit.
He said: “While we’re in the middle of the summer I want to work very closely with the younger guys to make sure they are progressing well.
“They are the future of this club and whatever happens next season they will have a role to play for us.”