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Former Wolves striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake suing surgeon after 'unnecessary' surgery that ended career

Former Wolves striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake is suing a surgeon for millions of pounds claiming his top flight career was ended by an operation he didn’t need.

Sylvan Ebanks-Blake of Wolverhampton Wanderers is tackled by Paul Robinson of Birmingham City (AMA)
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake of Wolverhampton Wanderers is tackled by Paul Robinson of Birmingham City (AMA)

Ebanks-Blake, 37, never played top level football again after going under the knife following a leg break while playing for Wolves against Birmingham City in 2013, writes Paul Keogh.

The England under-21 star developed arthritis after the surgery, but claims he was not warned pain and stiffness was a risk of the operation.

He is now suing surgeon Prof James Calder for a massive compensation payout for the premature end to his career. The size of Ebanks-Blake’s claim has not been disclosed, but is likely to run into millions as he is claiming for the loss of a lucrative Premier League career at the age of just 27.

At the time of the operation, the average annual salary for a top flight footballer was £1.6 million.

The Cambridge-born striker had played youth football for Manchester Utd before working his way up from the lower leagues to Wolves, where he scored 64 goals in 193 appearances between 2007 and 2013.

But a leg fracture at the end of the 2012-13 season marked the end of his time in the top flight and he spent the rest of his career at lower and non-league clubs.

He eventually retired, hanging up his boots after suffering another injury while playing for non-league Walsall Wood during the 2019-20 season.

However, in documents filed at the High Court, his barrister Simeon Maskrey KC blames surgery which the player had years earlier for the demise of a once promising career. After fracturing his tibia in April 2013, he underwent surgery at the hands of orthopaedic surgeon, Professor James Calder.

But during the operation to fix the bone, the doctor also performed an arthroscopy – a type of keyhole surgery – to his ankle. He said it was to assess a previous cartilage injury, to remove damaged tissue and perform a technique aimed at provoking new fibrocartilage growth.

But the former star’s lawyers say that the operation resulted in “stiffness and reduction of movement” in his left ankle when it had previously been fine.

Ebanks-Blake was transferred to then Championship club Ipswich Town late in 2013 but, despite regular steroid injections into the ankle, he continued suffering with pain.

From there, he moved to Preston North End, before drifting down into non-league football and retiring following a further leg fracture in January 2019.

“His decision to stop was the result of the continuing pain and stiffness in the left ankle joint and not because of the fracture,” says the barrister.

If Mr Ebanks-Blake had been informed of the “significant risk” of long-term pain and stiffness, he would not have consented to the operation, the barrister continues.

“He would have opted to wait and undergo surgery if or when the joint became painful or stiff,” said the barrister.

“He was left unable to play football at all without recourse to steroid injections. When he did play, the loss of movement and pain hampered his ability to play to his previous standard.

“The combination of an inability to play regularly and/or for a reasonable length of time and his reduced standard of play gave rise to transfers from the Premier League to the lower divisions of the English Football League and eventually to non-league clubs. Following the fracture of the left fibula on the 26th January 2019, the claimant reasonably gave up playing football.

“He did so not because of the consequences of the fracture, but because of the pain and stiffness in the left ankle joint.

“It is probable that without any intervention on the part of the defendant the left ankle joint would eventually have become symptomatic.

“However, the symptomology would have been delayed, would probably have been of slow onset and would not have prevented the claimant from continuing to play in the Premier Division and/or the Championship until his mid-30s. As it is, the claimant can no longer play football.

“He continues to suffer pain and stiffness in the left ankle. He has developed consequential psychiatric symptoms of depression.”

Mr Maskrey says the result of the operation was that EbanksBlake has lost his income as a professional footballer and now needs ongoing physiotherapy and psychological support.

He is claiming a substantial – but as yet unquantified – compensation payout from the surgeon. No defence to the claim has been made available by the court.

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