When athletes are wearing headbands, we assume it’s to keep their hair back and the sweat out of their eyes. But could it just as often serve the purpose of disguising a receding hairline?
That’s what came to mind when two of the world’s top athletes were facing off in Wimbledon last summer. Both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are religious wearers of headbands. What we’ve lately noticed when those headbands come off after the match and get tossed into the outstretched hands of the fans: There isn’t nearly as much hair there as there once was!
Rafa vs Roger, Hairwise?
While Rafa beats Roger these days when it comes to their rankings atop the ATP Tour, Roger can take solace that, at least hair-wise, he has a big advantage. While his hairline shows quite a bit of recession, his hair is otherwise relatively thick, with no signs of balding of the crown.
Nadal’s hair, on the other hand, has been thinning since he’s been in his 20s. He has been able to cover this up fairly well, by wearing aforementioned headbands and keeping his hair longer and brushed back. But you can’t help but notice considerable bald spots showing through the strands of hair when he whirls around the court in his usual intensity.
What many people may not know is that Rafael Nadal already underwent hair transplant surgery in 2016. In fact, he had a Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) procedure just like we perform at The Hair Doctor. According to Spanish newspaper reports, he had a 4,500 graft hair transplant.
In an FUE hair transplant, the surgeon or hair restoration specialist extracts individual hair follicles from the areas unaffected by androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern baldness. The grafts harvested from these areas – typically around the sides and back of the head – are then transplanted into the balding areas. All of this is achieved using a simple wand powered by pneumatic pressure. The patient won’t need any stitches, and the tiny extraction and insertion punctures are so small that they easily scab over and heal within a week.
The fast and easy healing is what makes FUE such a popular hair transplantation method among athletes like Rafael Nadal. Most patients return to their regular activities the very next day. There is really no need to take any time off, other than for the day of the procedure, which can last up to 8 hours. Some patients prefer to stay out of the limelight for about a week to protect their privacy, but this is not medically necessary.
Nadal’s Hair Transplant
So was Rafael Nadal’s hair transplant a successful one?
Most people would say yes. As mentioned before, his hair looked considerably thinner in his twenties, when he seemed to be rapidly losing hair. The rate of loss seems to have slowed down, which is most certainly the result of his hair transplant.
However, the balding areas will continue to lose hair – not the transplanted follicles, which by their nature are “resistant” to balding, but the original ones. Therefore, Nadal might benefit from another hair transplant in the coming years.
We spoke with our NeoGraft Master Tech and his team, and here is their recommendation for Rafael Nadal:
His male balding pattern appears to be one of the more severe types, where almost all the hair from hairline to back crown is lost. It’s likely that without his prior restoration he would be almost completely bald, with just the DHT resistant hair remaining around the sides and back. While for many patients one hair transplant is enough, Nadal’s need for additional grafts is greater, because his areas of loss are so large. With the coverage he has now, another procedure could easily touch up his result and further his restoration success. We would recommend 2,500 grafts to thoroughly reinforce his entire male pattern balding region, starting at his hairline and working our way back. We have achieved great results with patients like Nadal seeking a touchup after further loss.
You might argue that for someone who has earned so many millions in prize money and sponsorships, what does it matter if they go bald or not?
And it’s true – it doesn’t matter to any of us. We will continue to enjoy watching Nadal and Federer put their awesome athleticism on display, hair or no hair.
But it may matter to them. Why not do something about hair loss when the result will simply make you feel better and the investment is permanent?