Wan Zack's way back - on receiving innovative stem-cell treatment and working through Ramadan

Zulhilmi Zainal
In part two of Goal's interview with Wan Zack Haikal, we look into more detail of the treatment undergone by the Selangor player for his ACL injury.

BY        ZULHILMI ZAINAL       Follow on Twitter

Read the first part of the story here.

After the preparatory works were completed by the technician, we waited for the arrival of the KLSMC physiotherapist assigned to Wan Zack, and he described the reasoning behind his decision to undergo treatment there.

"I came across KLSMC while researching for a rehabilitation centre, particularly a special technique in the early parts of the treatment. While undergoing surgery, they took stem cells from my kidney and inject them into my knee joint in order to help regenerate the cartilage.

"The doctor told me that when he was researching the method, he experimented on goats, which gave me quite a chuckle!" recalled the 28-year old winger.

It is not known to many, but the method was pioneered in 2007 by a Malaysian researcher, Dr Saw Khay Yong, who is also KLSMC's founder and director.

While Khay Yong himself was not present on the day, Wan Zack's physio Lee Yong Han eventually arrived for the session, and while beginning his session with the player by massaging his knee, provided more explanation on the rehabilitation work undertaken. 

"We're still in the early stages of Wan Zack's recovery currently, we're just getting the knee to bend and straighten properly again, while strengthening the muscle so that the knee is more stable.

"Only four months after the operation will we proceed with the more physical activities, such as jogging. And from there we will take it to running and changing of directions while running. After the sixth month mark, he'll be ready to kick the ball again," he noted.   

Wan Zack then proceeded to undergo a series of relatively light exercises under Yong Han's watchful eye, aimed at strengthening the knee.

I took the opportunity to ask the therapist, perhaps a little naively; with all the recent advancements in sports science, will there ever come a time when ACL injury is a thing of the past?

"There's no such thing," he responded with a laugh, perhaps tickled by my uninformed optimism. "It's a tough injury to prevent as it is mainly caused accidentally; by tackles, falls, an awkward landing after a jump, or by twisting the knee.

"But what can be done is to make it harder for the injury to occur, by strengthening the muscles and improving one's balance."  

But after an ACL injury occurs, the mental aspect of athletes and patients undergoing rehabilitation at KLSMC is also given focus

"We try to mix the exercises because it's very important for the patient to stay motivated. This is where the 'mind over matter' concept comes in; the lack of motivation in a patient will adversely affect the growth of their muscles. We need to look after their mental condition as well.

"We do that by setting new goals every day or every few days. For example, by working so that a patient's knee can bend progressively more. When patients have goals, they will be more motivated, so that's why we try to be more goal-oriented here," noted the physiotherapist. 

And Wan Zack is motivated to continue his rehabilitation, even when the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan commences in the first week of June.

"Admittedly, the reduction in food and water intake [for Muslim patients] will indirectly affect the recovery, but we will adjust the exercises to reduce the intensity. But it will still have to be done," Yong Han remarked.

"After all, I was told that the more intense phase of recovery exercises will only start after Ramadan is over. So, God willing, I will still come here even while I'm fasting," the Selangor man chimed in determinedly.

He is willing to do whatever it takes in chase of the highs of recovery, recalling his previous ACL injury.

"I cried when I could run again, and I cried again when I was eventually able to kick a ball. The euphoria was indescribable. The ISN (National Sports Institute) physio even got concerned and asked 'What's wrong with you?'" he recalled with an infectious smile.

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