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What's wrong with Pope Francis' knee?


During Holy Week, Pope Francis was visibly limping.

And he chose not to preside over Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday. 

On Tuesday, he canceled some of his daily meetings, and after his General Audience on Wednesday, he said this to crowd of pilgrims.

POPE FRANCIS
I ask that you excuse me that I will greet you while seated, because this knee is not finished healing, and I cannot stand for too long. Sorry about this, thank you.

Yet the Pope's knee pain is nothing new. He first announced it at the end of January.

POPE FRANCIS
And I would like to tell you that today I won't be able to pass among you all to greet you, because I have a problem with my right leg. I have an inflamed ligament in my knee. But I will come down and greet you. And you will come up and say hello. It's something that passes. They say this only happens to old people, so I don't know why it's happening to me but...I don't know.

It hasn't seemed to pass in the last four months, as Pope Francis has been increasingly modifying his schedule due to the pain. 

His only international trip since January, to Malta, began and ended with scenes of the Pope boarding and disembarking his plane on an elevator.

And he rode the Popemobile through the streets of Malta while seated. 

The Vatican announced that the Pope is suffering from gonalgia, a general term for strong knee pain. Yet the Italian press has said it is surely caused by gonarthrosis

ANDREA CAMPI
Orthopedic surgeon
This is osteoarthritis in the knee. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition of a joint, where the cartilage lining the joint wears away and the bone becomes deformed, and this is known as arthrosis, which can affect all joints, and in the case of the knee it is known as gonarthrosis. In an elderly person more than eighty years old, it's not about specific problems with ligaments or the meniscus, but rather osteoarthritis and joint degeneration due to aging.

Doctor Andrea Campi is an orthopedic surgeon. He says that the Pope's knee pain could be related to his well-known hip problem.

ANDREA CAMPI
Orthopedic surgeon
In the case of the Holy Father, he can have pain in his knee, which is what all the news is talking about, a pain that could be caused by a gonarthrosis, but in theory it could also be caused from other sources, such as arthritis in his hip. This would be known as a coxarthrosis, which can be bothersome at the hip level, but the pain can also extend downward toward the knee. He could have a knee that doesn't have a lot of problems, and arthritis in his hip where the pain in his knee comes from.

Dr. Campi says that when this type of knee pain lasts only a short while, it can be treated with medication. In the Pope's case, however, he recommends surgery.

ANDREA CAMPI
Orthopedic surgeon
Remember that today getting a knee or hip implant is not an operation that requires general anesthesia, but local anesthetics, so only the treated area is put to sleep, and it lasts about an hour, or even less. All in all it's nothing exceptional.

What's for certain is that the Pope will need to be in good shape in 2022. 

He went two years without traveling due to the pandemic, and for this year he has already confirmed a difficult trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. On top of that, he may be planning additional trips to Lebanon in June, Canada at the end of July, and Kazakhstan in September.

RQ/JRB

TR: JM