Stefan Küng will undergo surgery to treat the injuries to his hand and cheekbone that he sustained in a crash during the individual time trial at the UEC Road European Championships last Wednesday, September 20, in the Netherlands.
Swiss Cycling confirmed in a recent medical update that Küng was transferred by Rega, Swiss air rescue, to a hospital in Switzerland on Friday, September 22. Doctors confirmed his injuries to include a concussion, a fracture of the zygomatic bone (cheekbone) and multiple hand fractures.
Küng will undergo surgery on Monday, September 25, at the Cantonal Hospital of St. Gallen on his hand and zygomatic bone. According to the federation doctor Patrik Noack, Küng will have to observe a recovery period of six to eight weeks.
Küng suffered a heavy crash during the elite men’s time trial, running into the barriers as the road narrowed and landing heavily in the closing kilometres of the 29.8-kilometre course in Emmen.
There appeared to be no team or medical car following riders, so Küng remounted and finished the race with the front of his helmet in pieces, his face and chest covered in blood. He was then cleaned up and checked under the UCI’s concussion protocol at the finish.
“Looking back, we can say that Stefan Küng should not have finished this race,” said Patrick Muller, competitive sports manager of Swiss Cycling. However, he also said it was difficult to apply this theory in practice.
“Everything is happening very quickly. After the fall, an athlete has the reflex to get back on the bike. It’s almost impossible to stop them. In addition, we only see the athlete from behind, from the racing vehicle. It is, therefore, difficult to assess the seriousness of the injuries.”
The UCI enacted a concussion protocol in 2021, and riders are now supposed to be assessed before continuing to race if they’ve broken their helmet or have suffered a crash that could have caused a concussion.
Muller confirmed that Swiss Cycling will analyse what happened and the steps that were and were not followed after Küng crashed during the time trial, which allowed him to finish the race with serious injuries.
Küng said he is now doing okay despite the circumstances of his injuries and lengthy recovery time. “The supervision by the Swiss Cycling doctors has been and remains excellent, I am in very good hands. We let’s do a debriefing and benefit from the lessons learned from this debriefing in the future.”
Mauro Schmid will replace Küng on the Swiss team competing in the elite men’s road race at the UEC Road European Championships on Sunday.