JAY Rodriguez will be bucking the trend of sporting stars who have suffered anterior cruciate ligament injuries if he returns to action within six months.
The Saints striker had his worst fears realised after his injury at Manchester City last weekend was diagnosed as a rupture of his ACL.
Rodriguez suffered his injury when his knee gave way after leaping to control the ball.
He was not being tackled at the time, but statistics show that the majority of ACL injuries happen without contact with another player.
The in-form Rodriguez, a candidate for England’s World Cup squad for Brazil, had been in a rich vein of form with 17 league and cup goals this season.
Now, instead of eagerly awaiting news from Roy Hodgson, he faces months of rehabilitation after suffering a cruel blow at the Etihad Stadium.
It is believed Rodriguez faces a recovery period of at least six months before he can think about playing competitively for Saints again.
But other sporting stars have had far longer time on the sidelines after sustaining the same injury.
Ex-Saint Matthew Oakley suffered only a partial tear of his ACL in a Premier League game against Middlesbrough in September 2003.
He next kicked a ball for Saints in a pre-season friendly the following July, after which he suffered further knee problems before finally making his competitive comeback on Boxing Day 2004.
Famously, Paul Gascoigne didn’t kick a ball competitively for over a year after rupturing his ACL during the 1991 FA Cup final while playing for Tottenham.
Michael Owen suffered a similar injury playing for England in the 2006 World Cup finals against Sweden in mid June.
The striker’s next competitive game was for Newcastle in the Premier League the following April 30.
World football’s governing body, FIFA, explains on its website that “the most feared knee injury is an anterior cruciate ligament tear.
“The ACL is one of the major stabilising ligaments in the knee joint that prevents excessive movements of the lower leg against the thigh.
“If you tear your ACL, you may miss six to nine months of play as a result of the injury.
“In about two-thirds of all complete ACL tears, there is also damage to other structures of the knee.
“Complete ACL tears frequently lead to long-term problems, including instability and an early onset of arthrosis of the knee normally found in elderly people as a consequence of ageing.”
Those are not words which Rodriguez will draw comfort from as he begins his extended period on the sidelines.
However, he can take hope from the quick recovery time of ex-Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien.
The Ghana international ruptured his ACL back in early September 2008, and was back playing for Chelsea by the following March.
Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, meanwhile, is aiming to follow in Essien’s footsteps.
Falcao has been out of action since rupturing cruciate knee ligaments while playing for his club, AS Monaco, in January.
But he is still confident of appearing for his country in this summer’s World Cup.
“I’m recovering quickly,” he said this week.
“Physiotherapy is going very well. The knee has responded very well, which allowed me to gain momentum in the work.
“I’m a little ahead of what was expected, but we know very well that it's day to day that we'll see the evolution.”
Described as the “Ronaldo of knees”, pioneering Portuguese surgeon Jose Carlos Noronha was the man who operated on Falcao a few months ago.
Noronha was credited as performing a “miracle cure”when he operated on Real Madrid’s Pepe in December 2009.
Thanks to Noronha’s work, the Portuguese international recovered in time to play in the 2010 World Cup.
There is also positive words for Rodriguez from America.
Across the Atlantic, medical research has shown that suffering an ACL is no longer the ‘career ender’ that it was deemed to be.
Veteran football fans will remember that an ACL ended Brian Clough’s incredible playing career back in the 1960s.
Dr Souryal, a doctor with the Dallas Mavericks NBA basketball team, says recovery times from an ACL injury are coming down all the time.
Dr Souryal said: “Recovery still takes six months, is economically demanding and involves an operation, but it’s no longer career-ending. “National results show a 96 to 98 per cent return to sport”.
There are even American-based studies now that show athletes returning from ACL surgery stronger than they were before.