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Marco van Ginkel details nearly 1000-day knee injury hell

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Comeback kid

PSV v FC Twente - Dutch Eredivisie Photo by /BSR Agency/Getty Images

On January 13, Chelsea loanee Marco van Ginkel played his first competitive minutes of football for not only this season, but for the last 2.5 years. Even though PSV lost, those 3 minutes must have had him feeling like Andy Dufresne at the end of Shawshank Redemption.

“It felt a bit like my debut again. We lost the game but I still celebrated it with my family. It felt important because it was a big achievement for me.”

Van Ginkel’s resilience, determination, and never-say-die attitude is the sort of stuff that would make for a most inspirational Hollywood sports movie. He’s talked before about the setbacks and challenges, including a 1-in-200 infection, he’s had to overcome, the mental strength that was needed to do so, and just how important the various support structures around him (family, club, friends, etc) have been.

Most ACL injuries (and surgeries) take 6-12 months to recover from, and then another 6-12 to get back to playing form. Van Ginkel needed over twice that long just to make it back to the pitch. In an interview with Goal’s Nizaar Kinsella, he gave a few new details on just why it took so long.

“I think it was 50-50 whether my career would survive. [...] At that moment, it was more about whether I could walk again. Football didn’t matter.

“The [1-in-200] infection that came six weeks after my operation killed my knee a bit. That’s why it took so long, it damaged my knee and cruciate and I had to be operated on all over again. It was a very hard time. [...] A normal infection requires only antibiotics and you are OK, but mine was quite bad so I was on antibiotics for three months. They had to clean my knee out a further three times through surgery. Those were very tough times.

“Emotionally and mentally, it was very hard. But I am a very positive person. I think everyone who knows me would say that and it kept me alive, for sure. But I can’t deny that I had some difficult days.”

I’m not sure “very positive” can even begin to describe the mindset and the reality distortion field that you need to create to function every day through something like this.

Not that my own experience matters any one bit, but it took me six months to start running and 18 months to get back to playing (badly) and skiing (weakly), and that was with a pandemic shutting everything down (rehab, leagues, gyms, etc.) for almost a year as well. That has felt like an eternity, and it’s still a year less than what Van Ginkel’s gone through.

“The mindset you need to make it is the same that you need to come back. It is to get better every day and I did it. If you don’t have that, you will never come back after a big, big injury.

“I am just happy to be a footballer again.”

-Marco van Ginkel; source: Goal

MvG has made three appearances for PSV now, all from the bench, totaling a little over half an hour.

However long he gets to keep playing or however close he gets to recovering what was once a very promising career, he’s already a hero just for coming back.