Gareth Bale and armchair doctors

Richard Heathcote

Chances are, you're not a doctor. Even if you are a doctor, you probably haven't examined Gareth Bale's ankle.

No one knows whether or not Gareth Bale will play against Manchester City on Sunday. Andre Villas-Boas doesn't know, Gareth Bale doesn't know, and the people who make medical decisions at Tottenham Hotspur probably haven't given AVB a definitive yes or no answer yet. Obviously, Villas-Boas wants Bale to play.

If Bale doesn't play, we'll all just assume that Tottenham's medical staff didn't clear him to play. We'll sulk, and we'll cheer on Gylfi Sigurdsson and/or Clint Dempsey and/or Lewis Holtby, but we'll assume that the correct decision was made. Whenever a player sits out a game due to injury, fans and media alike are willing to defer to medical professionals and assume that they made the right decision.

However, a very interesting phenomenon occurs when a player in Bale's situation ends up starting the game. At that point, a bunch of armchair doctors -- folks who would have respected the opinion of the medical professionals who got to look at the injury sustained by the athlete in question -- suddenly jump out of the woodwork.

Instead of trusting the opinions of doctors and trainers, which they would have done if a player in this situation was held out for another game, they suddenly start wondering if the team is taking a risk. In this particular situation, fans across the internet will almost certainly start speculating about whether or not Bale is playing hurt and whether or not Villas-Boas is taking a massive risk, as if Bale and Villas-Boas are allowed to make any decision about whether or not a player recovering from an injury can play without getting clearance from the team's medical staff. If Bale picks up any injury of any kind during the game, related or otherwise, those same armchair doctors will rush to the conclusion that they were completely right and that Villas-Boas made a horrible decision to start Bale in the first place. This is so fucking stupid.

I know I'm inventing a point of view of a person who is currently hypothetical, but don't act like you don't hear this exact same argument over and over, every year, in every sport you follow. Every single time a star player comes back quickly from an injury -- or gets injured during a game -- thousands of people watching in the stands or on television jump to conclusions that require medical training and examination of the person involved to reasonably come to. I'm guilty of doing this, and you probably are too.

Let's stop doing this. I'm not a doctor, 99 percent of you are not doctors, and more than 99 percent of the doctors that have ever read this website have not examined Gareth Bale's current ankle injury. None of us know how fit he is, and none of us will know if he is very healthy or taking a risk if he steps out onto the pitch on Sunday. We have absolutely no way of knowing. If you find yourself thinking that Villas-Boas is taking a risk on Sunday, please stop for a second, think about it, and then tell yourself that you are full of shit.

Don't make the argument that Bale should play if he can walk at any time between now and Sunday's game, and don't make the argument that Villas-Boas should rest him even if he's cleared to suit up, just be be safe. You can't make that argument, because you don't know anything, and that's okay. It's okay to not know. Just admit that you don't know.

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