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Jamie Redknapp's top-flight career could be over following his latest knee injury setback. Football365 has learned that one in five players fail to fully recover from similar problems and now the Liverpool midfielder faces a desperate battle for full fitness. The Anfield star broke down in training earlier this week with a recurrence of the cartilage injury that denied him a place in Kevin Keegan's Euro 2000 squad and there are now increasing concerns he will struggle to make a full recovery from the problems which have dogged him for the past 12 months.

The 27-year-old underwent a cartilage operation in November last year, sidelining him for four months and, although he did return to the Anfield first team before the end of the season, it flared up again during England's Euro 2000 preparations.

Liverpool are optimistic about their captain's chances of making a full recovery despite the need for a second operation in less than a year but Phil Newton, the joint director at the Lilleshall Sports Injury Clinic and a qualified chartered physiotherapist, has an ominous warning for the injury-plagued playmaker.

"There are no concrete scientific figures for recovery rates from serious knee injuries because 'full recovery' is a very difficult term to define, but it's generally accepted by orthopaedic surgeons and physios that about one in five don't make it back," Newton told Football365.

"Of the people I treat, 90% are professional footballers and, although surgical and rehabilitation techniques have dramatically improved, there are still no guarantees. Of course, everything depends on the exact nature of any knee injury but there are always players who never quite regain the same levels of stamina, flexibility, strength and speed. It's common sense that two operations in quick succession is bad news for anyone.

"In my experience, some players get close to a full recovery but never quite attain their previous levels of physical prowess and find they cannot compete at the same level as before. They tend to drop down the leagues or sometimes they move abroad where the game is generally less physical."

Redknapp has been plagued by injury throughout his career. His part in England's march to the semi-finals of Euro 96 was curtailed by an ankle sprain and fitness problems also forced him out of Glenn Hoddle's 1998 World Cup plans. Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier admits Redknapp could be sidelined for up to five months following his second visit to the surgeon and Newton has warned that it will take even longer to get over the full effects of the surgery and his second long lay-off.

"Surgery always carries risks," he said. "Even if a player makes what appears to be a full recovery there are associated problems with can surface later - players who miss pre-season and come back halfway through the season tend to pick up more injuries."
 
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