World Cup 2014: How Would Theo Walcott Have Been Treated in the Middle Ages?

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Theo Walcott’s ligament injury ruled him out of the World Cup in Brazil but, thankfully, he’s recovering well – the same would not have been said had he sustained the injury 700 years ago.

The skeletal remains of a medieval monk who suffered the same injury as the England winger is due to go on display in Barley Hall in York and shows how he was treated at the time, during either the 13th or 14th century.


Uncovered at the medieval Gilbertine Priory by York Archaeological Trust in the 1980s, experts said the monk could well have picked up the cruciate ligament injury the same way as Walcott — playing football.


Archaeological evidence suggests the monk’s twisted knee was 30 degrees out of alignment, and put an end to his footballing days. Pitting of the bone suggests he also suffered a severe infection and probably had a leaking wound.


Sarah Maltby, director of attractions for the Jorvik Group – the visitor attraction division of York Archaeological Trust – said: “Whilst a modern day footballer might hope to return to the pitch following treatment and physiotherapy, sadly this injury almost certainly cut the monk’s soccer hobby short.”


The possibility he picked up the injury playing football is highly feasible, with references in literature to monks from the English order of Gilbertine playing the game.


To treat him, doctors at the time would have encased his knee with two copper plates with leather straps in order to immobilise the joint. The monk was lucky to receive this form of treatment, as it was often substituted by amputation during the medieval period.

Maltby said: “Analysis of the skeleton by osteoarchaeologists show that he walked with a crutch following the injury – his right shoulder was sticking up – and there are signs of chronic infection of the knee. His running days would have been over, although he was clearly still able to walk around to some degree.”

As well as the footballing monk, other items on display include a three lions lead weight and a 12th century whistle that was cut from the wing bone of a swan.


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