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Tibia Fracture a ‘Relatively Easy Fix’

In the NCAA Midwest Regional final matchup between Louisville and Duke on March 31, sophomore guard Kevin Ware suffered a horrific open leg fracture. After jumping to try to block a 3-point shot, he landed on his right leg, breaking his tibia in two places.

Catherine Humphrey MD“This type of injury can happen to a young, healthy athlete out of the blue,” says Catherine Humphrey, M.D., Chief of Orthopaedics at Highland Hospital and an orthopaedic trauma specialist.

Dr. Humphrey says this type of fracture is most common in basketball and soccer players and generally occurs when there is a sudden deceleration – the foot plants but the body continues to move forward. Although these injuries look gruesome, Dr. Humphrey says a broken tibia is a relatively easy fix.

“Bone heals more reliably and consistently than an injury involving ligaments,” she says.  “The bigger concern with an open or exposed fracture is infection.”

According to one news report, doctors reset the bone and inserted a rod into Ware’s right leg during a 2-hour surgery, and one day after the injury, he was standing with the help of crutches but also being monitored for infection.

Dr. Humphrey suspects the injury is not career ending and that Ware will likely be able to play basketball competitively again in six months.

“It can impact an athlete’s ability to compete in the future – there may be some amount of pain and stiffness – but a lot of elite players have had tibia fractures and continue to compete,” says Dr. Humphrey. “Young patients have a tremendous healing capacity.”

According to Dr. Humphrey, the best way to prevent these types of fractures is to be in good overall condition, focusing on knee and ankle flexibility.

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