U.S. Men's National Team soccer star Christian Pulisic may've scored the winning goal against Iran during the 2022 World Cup match on Nov. 29, but he certainly paid a price, sustaining a pelvic contusion.
After winning 1-0, the American team is advancing to play the Netherlands in round 16 of the tournament on Dec. 3. And if Pulisic, who reportedly plans to play, takes the field, he'll likely be in a bit of pain, Dr. John Vasudevan, associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at University of Pennsylvania, tells TODAY.com.
"While it's good news it's not a break, a contusion can feel just as bad as a broken bone," he says.
What is a pelvic contusion?
When he scored the only goal of the match, Pulisic, 24, crashed into the Iranian team's goalie, which led to the pelvic contusion, a Nov. 29 tweet from the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team confirmed. "His status is day-to-day," it stated.
A contusion is "a fancy word for bruise," in this case on the pelvis, Vasudevan explains. The injury is either to the bone or the soft tissues, such as muscles and tendons, he adds.
When a bone, muscle or tendon is bruised, it leads to a "disruption" in the tissue, according to Vasudevan.
"If you were to take a microscope and look down at some of these structures, you'll see the normal alignment of all the components of the bone or whatever tissue has been injured will look sort of out of order or jumbled," he says. "Because that injury requires repair, that repair leads to a big, inflammatory reaction by your body, but that response, which is normal and natural, is painful."
"It's your body's normal, protective mechanism to say, 'Maybe now's not a good time to play soccer,' but Christian is probably saying no."
Vasudevan says that the sheer force of the collision led to the contusion because it "(overcame) the structural integrity" of the part of the pelvis that he injured.
"There is just a limit to what the body can handle, and obviously, the speed at which he was going meeting the goalie, who is ... very much planted in place, really accelerated that," he says. "It was a direct hit. ... He had to have been feeling pretty bad."
The pelvis is one of the more painful parts of the body to sustain a contusion because it's "the attachment site for a huge amount of muscle and tendons, from the core muscles that connect the trunk and spine to the pelvis, to the leg muscles, to the pelvic floor muscles," Vasudevan explains.
By contrast, in the thigh or lower leg, "there's just a fewer amount of muscles and usually fewer different directions of motion that any joint or bone in the lower leg has to take on," he says.
What will Pulisic's pelvic contusion recovery be like?
Pulisic reportedly shared a selfie from the hospital in Qatar via Snapchat, with a caption that said he'd be playing on Dec. 3, Fox News reported. "I'll be ready Saturday don't worry," he wrote.
Vasudevan says that while it'll be possible for Pulisic to play without injuring himself further, it will probably be painful.
"It won't be dangerous for him to play, but it's going be quite a nuisance to do so and still perform at a high level," he adds.
The recovery for a pelvic contusion usually takes between one and three weeks, according to Vasudevan. "If you see (Pulisic) looking about back to normal (on Saturday), that's a great sign he's more on that one week side. If you see him being a little hesitant, maybe even have to leave the game a bit early, it tells you it's probably going be closer to that three weeks."
"I think the kind of thing that is going to bother him is not so much the running but the sudden turns, the sudden twists, the awkward motions, like turning on a dime," he adds.
To get in the best shape possible come Saturday, Pulisic is likely doing "progressive stretching, strengthening and soccer specific drills (to predict) what his performance will be like, but also a lot of medications and modalities, which is a larger umbrella term for things like ... massage and electrical stimulation - things trainers and physical therapists might do to help reduce the pain to allow him to push his body to its limits," Vasudevan explains.
Vasudevan says that the big question is whether Pulisic will be able to withstand all 90 minutes of Saturday's game. He thinks he'll be more recovered by then, but "it's just whether (he's) better enough that it's going to affect his performance."
This article was originally published on TODAY.com