2010 has been a tough year in MotoGP for Valentino Rossi. The nine-time World Champion's season got off to a strong start with a victory at Qatar, but it's been very hard going ever since: a shoulder injury suffered in a training crash, followed by his huge highside in which Rossi broke his tibia and fibula at Mugello. The injuries have left Rossi with just a single win during the 2010 season, his worst start to a season since the Italian moved to the premier class in 2000.
The spectacular and painful nature of Rossi's leg injury has drawn much of the media attention, but the shinbones have not been Rossi's biggest problem. The main factor holding Rossi back throughout the season has been his injured shoulder, which has prevented Rossi from riding as naturally as normal. Rossi suffered the shoulder injury while riding a motocross bike during training. In the crash, he damaged the glenoid ligament, which helps support the shoulder and keeps the ball of the shoulder in place. This is one of the most difficult shoulder injuries for a motorcycle racer to suffer, as the injury makes the shoulder both extremely painful and very weak and instable, and Rossi has suffered badly with not being able to ride as naturally as he would like.
At the time of the injury - just before the canceled Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi - Rossi decided against surgery to correct the problem, as the Italian was afraid of losing too much time recovering from an operation. Rossi was determined to fight on for the championship, but the leg he then broke at Mugello put an end to any title aspirations he may have had.
With Rossi's shoulder injury still causing him some pain and stiffness, the Italian has finally decided to have surgery to fix the problem. Speaking to Italian television after a promotional event at Mugello, Rossi said "in the end, the problem is my shoulder, and at the end of the year, I will have an operation to fix it." So far, Rossi intimated, the mixture of strength training and physiotherapy had failed to resolve the problems he has had with the shoulder, and surgery was now the only option to correct the problem.
Rossi's decision to have surgery has been complicated by his earlier decision to switch from Yamaha to Ducati for the 2011 MotoGP season. With testing as limited as it is, and the Ducati still with a reputation for being a difficult bike to ride, Rossi will need as much time as possible on the new machine. But after the factories rejected a proposal to have an extra test in Jerez at the end of November, this gives the Italian two months to recover from surgery after the end-of-season test following the final race of the year at Valencia. If Yamaha decide not to allow Rossi to test - the Italian is under contract to the Japanese factory until December 31st of this year - then he could have surgery directly after the race at Valencia.
The recovery period for surgery of this kind is generally six to eight weeks, with four months generally required for a return to full fitness. That would allow Rossi to be fit to ride during the tests in Sepang and Qatar in February and early March, and back at full strength at the first race of the 2011 season at Qatar on March 20th.