Not anterior cruciate ligaments, metatarsals, or dodgy ankles – the sports medicine story of the week is Wayne Rooney’s hair transplant. Brave guy. Can you imagine the potential for abuse. Not just a few snide comments from behind the office photocopier, tongue wagging neighbours, or knowing smiles. He stands in front of 40,000 plus supporters every match, and on alternate games faces the hostile away game crowd. Barbed comments, taunts, and vicious songs of opposition supporters searching for any sign of weakness. Unforgiving.
No doubt or disguise. You cannot hide a hair transplant in front of a multi million television audience especially when they have watched the outgoing tide of your receding hairline over recent years. But, he didn’t flinch. First, he declared it on twitter, confirmed what the paparrazi had suspected when they saw him emerge from a private clinic, and then allowed photographs on the web. His colleagues have been supportive and encouraging – and, indeed, the press have been kind. Now everyone knows, no secret, and a good lesson in media management.
But, this is no boob job, eyelid lift or liposuction where plastic surgery is hidden, denied and private. What Wayne Rooney has done, in a single unexpected stroke, is to make cosmetic surgery public and acceptable. From the prices quoted on the media, it is not excessively expensive, and allowing for some celebrity inflation, the procedure will be accessible to many. Premature baldness is stressful, upsetting, and damaging for male self esteem. Many young men, tortured by what they see in the mirror seek solutions among the chancers and charlatans, drawn by false hope and half answers. And, sometimes, finish up in the consulting room in tears. This offers an alternative, expensive but not unattainable answer, and although I haven’t examined the research evidence in detail, it appears to be effective. He has changed the life of many, changed the image of plastic surgery, and changed his own public persona.
But, I have a question, from a purely football perspective, I wonder will it make him less willing to head a ball?
Domhnall MacAuley is primary care editor, BMJ