by James Bicos, M.D., Orthopedic Surgeon & Sports Medicine Specialist; Dr. Bicos recently served as one of the official team docs for the NCAA Division I 2nd and 3rd rounds at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
It was early in Sunday’s Louisville/Duke game that Louisville basketball player Kevin Ware suffered a compound fracture of his right leg. The video of the injury was grim and Ware’s rehab for this injury is going to be tough.
The first step is getting the bone to heal. Without looking specifically at the x-rays to know how many pieces the bone was in, this can take up to 3 months without complications. The more pieces the bone is in (official term called comminution), the higher the risk that it may partially heal or not heal at all.
Another thing Ware will have to overcome is to make sure the site does not get infected. It was an open fracture, and the prognosis for infection depends again on the amount of comminution in the bone, the status of the tissues (i.e. skin) after the injury, and the time to getting the bone fixed in the operating room.
The fracture is fixed by putting a metal rod down the center of the bone (i.e. tibia).This is a very strong fixation and he will be on crutches for the first couple of weeks to let the skin injury heal and make sure the swelling goes down.After that, he will progress to assisted walking and then normal ambulation by about 12 weeks after the surgery.The bone from a tibial shaft fracture can continue to heal for many more months after that, making his rehab significant.The other things to consider also include any injury to the surrounding muscles and tendons around the bone. Those injuries can lead to scar and make the rehab even more challenging.
His long-term prognosis is tough to predict, because it all depends on getting the bone to heal. But knowing the determination of high-end athletes, such as Kevin Ware, we are bound to see him back. We wish him the best of luck and a speedy recovery.