"This is really a disaster" - Belgian sports doctor rules Wout van Aert out of Giro d'Italia, warns that premature return to racing 'can be fatal'

Wout van Aert has experienced adversity before in his professional career but perhaps none of this dimension. Days before another attempt at winning the cobbled monuments the Belgian rider crashed extremely hard and suffered extensive injuries that, according to a doctor who's in on the situation, will likely take months to heal and completely change his season.

"That is a polytrauma. We only see such things in serious traffic accidents. And then we only know the damage on the surface. In the event of a crash at 80 or 90 km/h, the inside may also be severely damaged," Belgian sports association doctor Kris Vandermieren told Sporza. Further research will now have to show whether there is any more damage. Compare it with the body of a car. People are now talking about the outside, but the inside has also experienced a severe shock."

Van Aert was visibly shaken after the crash, but the outcome later in the night proved even worst than initially expected. The Team Visma | Lease a Bike rider has suffered a broken collarbone, three ribs and a fracture in the sternum after crashing at high speed during Dwars door Vlaanderen.

"A crack in the sternum heals itself, but that takes time. That could even take months. But of course you have to keep breathing. The [rib] fracture line is therefore always moving, so it does not heal easily. You have to count on that for 3 to 6 weeks," he continues. "And then there is a heavy mental impact: Van Aert will be completely destabilized hormonally. The "neurohormones", which make you feel good, have been shaken up. This is really a disaster. At the worst possible time, at the top of his career... This is really not easy."

The Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are immediately ruled out, but his debut at the Giro d'Italia is now also extremely unlikely. The Belgian will have to take several weeks at the very least off the road to not only recover from his injuries, but prevent further injuries that could prove even worst:

"In the event of a new fall, those broken ribs can cut through the lung membrane like a razor blade and cause a collapsed lung. That can be fatal," Vandermieren warns. "There is always a doctor nearby during a competition, but not during training. Van Aert will therefore mainly have to train on the rollers in the beginning and try to avoid a crash."

This means that, in the space of five weeks, it's very unlikely that van Aert will resume intensity training and take to the start of the Giro. He had ruled out a participation at the Tour de France this year as he focused on different goals including the Olympic Games. This race should not be at risk for the time being, however his calendar will most likely be completely turned on it's head.

"It is important to review his medical situation week by week. The Olympic Games? If he can return to competition after 2 or 3 months, that is perfectly feasible. But that is of course a piece of cake," he concludes.

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