What Surgery Can Do For An Athlete's Bad Break

The Wall Street Journal—April 1, 2013

Dr. David Helfet, an orthopedic trauma surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery, gives his expert advice on how to treat the traumatic injury suffered by basketball player Kevin Ware. Dr. Helfet is director of the Orthopaedic Trauma Service at Hospital for Special Surgery.

The horrific leg injury suffered by Louisville basketball player Kevin Ware on the court Sunday is a rare event in sports, but it is more commonplace in the world of orthopedic surgeons, who regularly see such fractures among victims of car accidents and other trauma.

That's one reason why treatment for open or compound fractures—in which the bone penetrates the skin—has evolved to offer patients like Mr. Ware an excellent chance for full recovery.

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"In the last 20 years we've been treating this kind of injury with a titanium rod to shish-kabob the bone back to its normal alignment," said David Helfet, chief of orthopedic trauma at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

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"Even though it was a devastating injury to look at, in the big scheme of things, it's not the worst injury you can have around your knee and/or your leg," said Dr. Helfet.

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At some point after the bone heals, Mr. Ware and his doctors may consider whether to remove the rod to prevent possible pain from the impact of playing. The procedure is straightforward, Dr. Helfet said, and might require six weeks of recovery.

At some airports, the titanium rod inserted in the bone could set off security alarms, Dr. Helfet added. "If that's his biggest problem, he'll handle it," he said.

Read the full story at wsj.com.

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