Three-time MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo is recovering from surgery to repair a fractured scaphoid. Known also as the "navicular," the boat-shaped scaphoid is one of eight bones in the wrist that lie between the hand and forearm. Scaphoid fractures are common in motorcycle racing because the injury often stems from a fall onto an outstretched palm.

Repsol Honda confirmed that Lorenzo fractured his scaphoid this past Saturday while “training” in Italy. The same statement also noted the 31-year-old 68-time Grand Prix race winner “will undergo surgery tomorrow (January 21) after additional checks. Further information to follow after his operation.”

On Monday, Honda issued the following details: “Lorenzo elected to have surgery on the injury, a titanium screw inserted via a minimally invasive technique. He will remain in hospital for 24 hours for further observation. Four days’ rest will give the injury sufficient time to heal from the operation and physiotherapy can then begin.

“Due to the nature of the injury, Lorenzo and the Repsol Honda team have elected for Lorenzo to miss the Sepang test to focus fully on his recovery. His aim is to return fully fit for the Qatar test, February 23 to 25. He now heads to Madrid for the 25th anniversary Repsol Honda team launch on January 23 alongside Marc Márquez.”

Neither statement clarified if the fracture was non-displaced (bone fragments line up correctly), displaced (fragments are out of their normal positions, possibly with gaps between them), or exactly where the fracture was located (closer to the thumb, for example, or nearer the middle of the bone).

Because the scaphoid generally has a poor blood supply, fractures can take a long time to heal. Early diagnosis and treatment is believed to greatly improve the likelihood of a full recovery. Time, however, is a rare commodity in racing. Toby Price heroically won this year’s 10-stage Dakar Rally after fracturing his right scaphoid just weeks earlier.

I fractured my left scaphoid twice—once while testing a Suzuki GSX-R600 at Willow Springs International Raceway and again, years later, trail riding in Australia. The first injury was allowed to heal on its own. The second required two surgeries due to an initial non-union and an 18-month rehabilitation.

In some cases, the bone doesn’t heal properly and dies. MotoGP legends Kevin Schwantz and the late Nicky Hayden—among others, including two-time World Superbike champion James Toseland—ultimately elected to surgically remove bones from their respective wrists to improve range of motion in the joint and potentially extend their careers.

Jorge Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo’s run of wins and podium finishes this past season with Ducati ended when he crashed in Spain and again in Thailand, injuring his left wrist and right ankle. The 31-year-old Mallorcan returned for the season finale in Valencia and recorded a 12th-place finish.Courtesy of Ducati

Hayden had a proximal row carpectomy with radial styloidectomy, which involved removing the scaphoid as well as two other bones. “The first time I rode the feeling wasn’t great,” he told me in September of 2014, “but I’ve ridden a couple of times this week and the feeling was much better. I was able to ride without thinking about my hand, which made me happy.”

Lorenzo’s Repsol Honda teammate Márquez and LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow are currently recovering from serious shoulder and ankle surgeries. In fact, of the Japanese factory’s four MotoGP entries, only Crutchlow’s teammate, Takaaki Nakagami, is completely fit heading into the first official test at the Sepang International Circuit.

The 2019 MotoGP world championship comprises 19 rounds in 15 countries, including the series' annual trek to Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas—now the lone US stop—on April 12–14. Watch the Repsol Honda Team launch on Wednesday, January 23, live from Madrid, Spain, here.