Burnley goalkeeper Alex Cisak sues over wrist operation
6:30pm Wednesday 30th October 2013 in News
A PROFESSIONAL goalkeeper who says he sometimes has to let shots past him, rather than save using his injured right wrist, is suing his surgeon for six-figure damages.
Alex Cisak was a 19-year-old youth prospect when he suffered a wrist injury during a warm-up session in early 2009.
Now with table-topping Burnley and a former Accrington Stanley first team player, the 24-year-old says ongoing problems have left him unable to save more than a handful of shots in training before pain sets in.
He told the High Court: "If I get pain in my wrist, I start leaving balls, which obviously isn't very good for a goalkeeper.”
Giving evidence, Mr Cisak, who is currently second choice in net for Burnley, said he can train normally until the strikers begin shooting practice.
The pain begins after a couple of saves, then he starts to let balls past him and he has to pull out, he told Mr Justice Phillips.
He said: "I'm taking painkillers. I'm training at 75 per cent of what I should be at. It has affected me.
"It has also affected me mentally because I am pulling out of shots. It is harming my development because I can't fully train.
"I think that's had an effect on my career."
Mr Cisak, a Polish-born Australia youth international, kept a clean sheet in the one start he has made since signing for the Championship leaders.
But he blames surgeon, Bhaskar Bhowal, who treated him at Leicester Hospital, for his problems.
In his High Court damages claim, he says Mr Bhowal should not have cleared him to go back to playing in May 2009, only four months after his injury.
By then, the wrist fracture was at only 80 per cent union, meaning it was too early for him to start facing shots, his lawyers claim.
His premature return to training led to him suffering more problems, which robbed him of a year of his career and put his development - and money-making potential - back even further, they say.
Whereas he had been with Leicester City, where the injury occurred, he had to drop down to the lower leagues with Accrington Stanley and Oldham Athletic and has only this summer returned to the Championship with Burnley, the court heard.
Questioned by the surgeon's barrister, John Whitting QC, Mr Cisak accepted he had received a ‘rave review’ of his only start this season since signing for Burnley.
He had pulled off a string of saves, described in a match report as ‘agile’, ‘smart’ or ‘neat’, while earning his clean sheet - but told the court that all of them were with his left hand.
He said: "If I did catch one with my right hand, I think it would cause some pain, but in that match all my saves were with my left hand.”
Mr Whitting said Mr Cisak's performance in that match - a 2-0 cup win against Preston North End - was not consistent with someone who can only manage a save or two in practice.
He said: "It sounds from that report as if your career is going rather well. "It is difficult to see how a goalkeeper playing at an extremely high level can get rave reviews if he could only use one arm.
"You're telling us that a club of that stature tolerates someone who is only able to last for a shot or two in goalkeeping practice?"
Mr Cisak said his club can see his potential, adding: "At 75 per cent, I'm good enough to be number two. If I was at 100 per cent, I think I would be playing."
Leslie Keegan, representing the keeper, said: "It is quite clearly his position that it was wrong in May 2009 to send a man with only, we say, 80 per cent union, with a bone which didn't have the full mechanical strength, back to a job where, when he had full mechanical strength, he had sustained a scaphoid fracture.
"It was wrong to send him back and it was wrong not to list him for review. If he had been listed for review, it would have become obvious that he was developing problems carrying out his professional job with this bone."
However, Mr Whitting cited a European report which showed that, of 4,500 football-related injuries counted in a year, only eight involved a player's wrist.
He told the judge: "The simple point I would like to put is that there isn't an increased risk as to wrist injuries when it comes to footballers and so they don't have to be treated any differently to the norm.”
Mr Cisak is claiming damages for his injuries and losses, including those related to lost wages because of delayed career progression.
Mr Bhowal denies liability and the hearing continues.
Promising start to career
ALEX Cisak is Burnley’s current number two goalkeeper, and he was also the keeper in Accrington Stanley’s most successful team for more than half a century.
Cisak spent only one season at Stanley, making 25 appearances, but established himself as a regular in the second half of the 2010/11 campaign with some impressive performances as the Reds went on a remarkable run to finish fifth in League Two. It was the club’s highest finish since their reformation, although they lost to Stevenage in the play-offs.
Cisak was born in Krakow, Poland, but moved to Hobart in Australia at the age of two.
He appeared at youth level for both Poland and Australia, and earned a move to Leicester City.
But the injury sustained to his wrist meant he was released without playing a first-team game, although he did earlier go on loan to Oxford and Tamworth.
Cisak’s performances for Stanley saw him step up to League One in 2011 with Oldham, for whom he made 59 appearances in two seasons – including playing for the Latics in their FA Cup defeat at Liverpool in 2012.
His second season at Boundary Park saw him drop down the pecking order and he had a brief loan spell with Portsmouth, before joining Burnley on a free transfer this summer.
He has been back-up to Tom Heaton, but the regular keeper’s dismissal at Brighton saw Cisak feature as a substitute in that game and then keep a clean sheet in the League Cup win over Preston when Heaton was suspended.