FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Years of rough treatment from opposing players and the concept of self preservation taught Lee Nguyen how to protect himself from rugged challenges. But this past season the dynamic midfielder was guarding against much more than everyday bumps and bruises.
Chronic instability in Nguyen’s right shoulder led to frequent dislocations, meaning every fall brought the potential for injury. It was a condition the 26-year-old simply learned to deal with until undergoing surgery to correct the problem approximately six weeks ago.
“It’s been an issue for a couple years now,” Nguyen revealed. “It wasn’t too big because it got to the point where [the shoulder] was just coming in and out. So if it did go out, it would come back in on its own. It wasn’t too [bad]. Two days later it would feel alright again so I’d be playing with it.
“[Head athletic trainer Sean Kupiec] was a little worried about it and the doctors were worried that it was coming out too often so they said let’s take a look at it. They figured the best option going forward was to get it done.”
Nguyen underwent surgery on Sept. 24 knowing the projected four-month recovery period should allow for his full return ahead of the 2013 preseason. Although he’ll remain in a protective sling for another two weeks, Nguyen has already begun the process of strengthening the area around the shoulder with resistance training, while he’s also returned to fitness and core workouts.
Upon completion of his rehab, Nguyen should no longer have to worry about minor strain on the shoulder causing a dislocation, as it did frequently in 2012 while in the weight room, on the training field, or – as it did on more than one occasion – during a game.
“There were a couple times it happened the day before a game and it was a little sore, so I had to play through that, but it wasn’t anything too bad,” said Nguyen, who memorably put in a 55-minute shift against D.C. United in mid-April with a fever and body aches. “The times when it did happen in the game, it was loose, so I played with it a little guarded. But it wasn’t anything that would’ve stopped me.”
Not much stopped Nguyen in 2012 as the newcomer to MLS registered five goals and two assists en route to New England Revolution MVP honors. Perhaps his only limitation was a persistent need to protect his shoulder, a burden he’ll no longer have to carry in 2013.
“It’s something I played with for a while so I knew how to guard myself for those tackles,” said Nguyen. “It was a thing where I wanted to get it done so I wouldn’t have to think about that; [constantly] having to brace myself, guard myself. So I think now going forward, getting this thing done and getting it stronger now will be better.”