The head doctor at Spanish football club Atlético Madrid has been called upon by the Vatican to treat Pope Francis’ knee injury.
José María Villalón, a specialist in orthopedic surgery and traumatology, told Spanish radio station COPE that he was part of a group of specialists who traveled to treat Pope Francis.
“Both from the Episcopal Conference and the Apostolic Nunciature of the Vatican in Spain, they requested that a group of specialists go help the Pope with the situation that he’s experiencing,” Villalón said. “We see him in a wheelchair and let’s see if we can help him improve his mobility and slow his arthritic process.”
Pope Francis has often been seen with a walking stick and sometimes using a wheelchair due to pain in his right knee.
Earlier this year, the 85-year-old canceled a trip to Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan after doctors said he might also have to miss a later trip to Canada unless he agreed to have 20 more days of therapy and rest for his right knee.
In an interview with Reuters in July, Pope Francis spoke about the injury for the first time, saying he had suffered “a small fracture” in the knee when he took a misstep while a ligament was inflamed.
Villalón told COPE that Pope Francis is suffering from an “arthritic process which is affecting various joints.”
He continued: “Sometimes, it starts in a joint with arthritis and other joints worsen because they carry more load than normal. And he’s looking to slow down that process and that it doesn’t worsen.”
Villalón explained that he was “nervous” before meeting Pope Francis because “it’s a responsibility for a world figure to be in shape physically,” adding that his busy schedule adds to the difficulty in treating his injury.
“We have the handicap that he isn’t a normal patient due to his great activeness. Possibly, the Pope has it more difficult because his schedule is so complicated, but I’m an optimist. We can help the Pope; he helps us with everything else, but we’ll at least be able to advise the doctors who are there on a day-to-day basis with him.”
Villalón described Pope Francis as having a “great personality, he’s very good, very lucid psychologically. He’s a very thankful person, very kind and he likes football.”
After Villalón mentioned that he worked for Atlético Madrid, he described Pope Francis – a keen Argentina football fan – expressing his support for Atleti and Argentina forward, Ángel Correa.
“He has a lot of love for him. The Pope is a fan of San Lorenzo, and since he’s the chaplain of the team, he confirmed [Correa], so they have a mutual care for one another.”
However, Villalón said that while he is a “very pleasant patient,” Pope Francis is “very stubborn in the sense that there are surgical solutions that he doesn’t want.”
“We have to offer more conservative treatments so that he’s in agreement,” Villalón said.
He added: “I hope to return because the first visit was just a consultancy.”
Pope Francis told Reuters that he did not want an operation on his knee because the general anesthetic used in last year’s surgery to remove part of his colon due to diverticulitis had negative side effects.
CNN has reached out to the Vatican and Atlético for comment.