Bullard had major knee surgery 18 months ago whilst at Fulham
Jimmy Bullard's surgeon says the Hull midfielder will be out for between six to nine months after undergoing surgery on his knee in the United States.
The 30-year-old has played just 53 minutes for the Tigers since his club record move from Fulham in January.
He jarred his knee on his debut on 28 January and went to see world-renowned specialist Dr Richard Steadman.
Steadman told the BBC the operation had been a success and added Bullard would need up to nine months of recovery.
"I thought it was very successful and somewhere between six and nine months he'll return to playing - more likely on the nine months side," he told BBC Radio Humberside.
Bullard's latest injury is far worse than the club first feared as it was initially thought he would not require surgery and could recover with rest.
However, after suffering further discomfort Bullard initially underwent surgery to repair a torn cartilage but Steadman also discovered fresh ligament damage.
We're not talking about a 22-year-old here, it's a player who's 31 this year and in four years he'll be 35 - four-year contracts when you're 31 will be put under the microscope
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson
It is the second major operation Bullard has had on his knee after suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury while playing for Fulham against Newcastle in September 2006, which ruled him out for almost one-and-a-half years.
Steadman, who also dealt with Bullard then, said: "His first injury was so severe it's not surprising he had the re-injury but this problem was significantly less severe.
"It's very promising and the rest of his knee looks good even though he had the severe injury in the past."
He became the Tigers' record signing almost a month ago when manager Phil Brown paid about £5m for his services, signing a contract thought to be for four-and-a-half years.
Bullard rejected a new contract at Craven Cottage with boss Roy Hodgson insisting the club could not offer him the long-term deal he wanted.
And Hodgson has admitted that Bullard's physical condition was considered when the club chose not to give him a new long-term contract.
"We didn't know about this," said Hodgson on Friday. "But if we hadn't given it (his knee) a thought we wouldn't be doing our job.
"The truthful answer is it was a consideration.
"I don't think it was a major consideration to be fair because I think when Jimmy came back from his previous injury he played in virtually every game afterwards.
"In that respect we had no reason to doubt his knee. We couldn't say 'we're not giving Jimmy a new contract because he has a bad knee', that wasn't the case at all.
"We're not talking about a 22-year-old here, it's a player who's 31 this year. In four years he'll be 35 anyway. Four-year contracts when you're 31 will be put under the microscope."
Hull have been criticised in some quarters for signing Bullard, whose medical revealed a torn meniscus, but Hodgson has leapt to their defence.
"All signings and sales of players are balancing acts," said Hodgson. "If a scan shows a bit of this or a bit of that the question is how manageable is it? Is it going to be a deal breaker? It's the same with every player.
No regrets over Bullard - Hull chairman
"Jimmy mentioned it (before he left). He said he felt something with his knee. That's not unusual though.
"I actually think they got him cheaply. I think £5m for a player of Jimmy's stature was, if anything, cheap rather than expensive."
But Brown defended the signing.
"There are no regrets whatsoever about signing Jimmy Bullard," he said on Friday.
Hull City chairman Paul Duffen told BBC Look North last week: "It's the best thing for the player and the football club.
"In the long term we wanted Jimmy Bullard back at his best. He's signed a four-year-deal and we look forward to welcoming him back at the start of next season."
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