At 6 pm, on August 23, 2000, Michael Rudman's wife got a call no one wants to get. Her husband had been in a serious car accident and was in critical condition with multiple injuries. Among them—18 broken bones, including both hips and several fractures in his leg. Following six months of medical care and arduous physical therapy, Mr. Rudman was still far from healed.
In February 2001, seeking better expertise for his condition, he was referred to David Helfet, MD, an internationally known orthopedic trauma specialist at HSS. But Michael Rudman required more than treatment for broken bones. An unusual condition, known as heterotopic ossification, was causing his body to produce excess mineral in the soft tissues at the fracture sites, often preventing motion.
"Heterotopic ossification is associated with many conditions, but often following trauma or surgery. We are still trying to explain why this abnormal bone formation occurs in the soft tissues only in certain body locations and only in certain individuals," says Dr. Helfet. "One of the goals of research at HSS is to understand factors that contribute to aberrant calcification and therefore be able to prevent its occurrence." Until then, the treatment remains surgical, and Dr. Helfet applies his expertise to excise the abnormal calcium deposits in order to restore motion.
When Mr. Rudman—who was an avid skater—first came to see Dr. Helfet, he was virtually immobile. He required several surgical procedures, including replacement of damaged hips and the repair of residual problems with his legs.
"When I want to accomplish something, I work at it until I am the best I can be," says Mr. Rudman. Applying this philosophy to his recovery, he has donned his hockey gear and is back on the ice. He vows to play competitively again, but with only one modification to his game—no hip checks.