Christian Petracca faces extended stint on sidelines after surgery for lacerated spleen


“He underwent a procedure to stop the bleeding last night and remains in hospital for observation and recovery.

“A return-to-play timeline will be established in the coming week as Petracca recovers, and further medical assessment is undertaken.”

Demons players huddle around injured teammate Christian Petracca, before he leaves the field with a rib injury (right).

Demons players huddle around injured teammate Christian Petracca, before he leaves the field with a rib injury (right).Credit: AFL Photos

The champion midfielder was in obvious pain after the incident. He left the field for treatment, but returned briefly and attempted to play on, before he was taken by ambulance to hospital.

“After returning to play, Petracca’s pain increased at half-time and despite assessing relatively well, he was sent to hospital for further investigation as a precaution,” the Demons said.

Before he returned to play, the Demons’ doctors doubted Petracca had suffered a punctured lung, as reported by The Age.

“Like anything with a broken rib, or a cracked rib, you certainly get some pain relief and see how you can go on. It’s standard process when you’re working through these type of injuries,” Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin said after the match.

“It was pretty evident that he wasn’t going to be able to play on, so we just pulled it straight away at half-time.”

The injuries mean Petracca could be sidelined for months. Collingwood big man Mason Cox had six weeks on the sidelines in 2023 because of a lacerated spleen.

Petracca’s absence could not have come at a worse time for the Demons. Their premiership hopes have divedafter defeats in four of their past five matches, leaving Goodwin’s team in 10th spot.

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On Tuesday, Melbourne’s general manager of performance, Alan Richardson, said: “Obviously, Christian’s health is the number one priority for us at the moment. The next few weeks will be crucial, and we’ll be monitoring his progress closely to make sure he heals properly and fully.

“As his recovery progresses, we will look towards a return-to-play timeline. He’s obviously an extremely important player for the team, but his health and recovery are our top priorities right now.”

Dr Peter Brukner, a professor of sports medicine at La Trobe University who has been a club doctor for Collingwood and Melbourne, defended the Demons’ decision to allow Petracca to return to the field after his initial assessment.

“Initially these things may not seem too bad because you often get bruised ribs – that’s something some people can play with,” Brukner said.

Petracca struggling in pain at quarter-time on Monday.

Petracca struggling in pain at quarter-time on Monday.Credit: Getty Images

“He [Petracca] would be pushing: ‘Let me see how I go’ sort of thing. As I said, sometimes it takes a little bit of time for the breathing difficulties and the bleeding to manifest itself. It’s probably not that unusual that he went back on. But I think they quickly realised he wasn’t right. Then he started to complain about feeling worse, and they quickly went into action.”

Brukner, who was at the game and spoke with Melbourne’s club doctors in the dressing room afterwards, said the Demons had done well to send Petracca to hospital as quickly as they had.

“You can miss these and ignore them and just say, ‘He is in pain.’ But I think they did very well to get him off to hospital as quickly as they did,” Brukner said.

“He would have had a tube inserted into his lung to expand the lung, and sedation and painkillers because the fractured ribs are very painful. And then they would just be observing the spleen side of things to make sure he was not continuing to bleed, which, in rare cases, they have to take the spleen out if that’s the only way to stop the bleeding. Usually, the bleeding just settles down by itself.

“You can imagine, there is a cut on the spleen … and it just stops bleeding after a while. It just depends how severe that laceration was. A horrible injury.”

Former North Melbourne premiership player David King questioned the decision for Petracca to return to the field.

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“You have got to play the long game with this one,” King said on SEN. “I am not sending him back out there knowing there is some kind of rib damage.

“If you look at him for the first three seconds he was back out there, he couldn’t run effectively, he couldn’t hang on to the ball for more than one second because he was going to get nailed. You can’t sign off on whether there was any other damage to his kidneys or anything. In the end, he goes for scans to confirm all of these things.”

King added that he could understand taking a “calculated risk” in a final but not in round 13.

“Preliminary final week I can understand, grand final absolutely – you take all sorts of risks because the games are so great – but round 13, I just think it’s a poor decision.”



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