Story by: Norton Healthcare on March 5, 2021
A broken leg like that suffered by Tiger Woods in his recent automobile crash can take several months to heal — and possibly longer since the compound fracture was in the lower leg and involved both the tibia and fibula as well as serious ankle injuries.
The lower leg, especially with multiple bones affected, can take longer to heal because there isn’t as much soft tissue and blood supply near the injury to help speed healing, according to Kevin Himschoot, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Norton Orthopedic Institute – Brownsboro.
Norton Orthopedic Institute provides emergency orthopedic care and post-traumatic reconstructive surgery services for patients who have bone, joint or soft tissue injuries due to trauma, such as car accidents, industrial accidents and falls.
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“With multiple bones involved and especially a comminuted open fracture — meaning bone had pierced the skin and fragmented — the recovery process can be lengthy. Any nerve damage can complicate the time it takes to recover,” Dr. Himschoot said.
Open fractures can create extensive damage to muscles, tendons, nerves, veins and arteries around the bone. The number of bone fragments and their size also can add to the severity of an open fracture.
With bone protruding through the skin, the risk of infection to the bone as well as soft tissue is very high. Bone infections can require multiple follow-up surgeries as well as long-term antibiotics.
Recovering from an open fracture requires physical therapy during and after the healing process. Specific exercises under the guidance of a physical therapist can help restore muscle strength, joint motion and flexibility.
Tiger’s injuries were stabilized with screws and pins during emergency surgery. Injuries to the leg’s muscle and other soft tissue required surgeons to release the covering of the muscles to relieve pressure, according to a statement from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles County, California, where Woods was treated.
Both upper and lower portions of the right tibia and fibula had open fractures with fragmentation, according to the hospital. A rod was inserted into the tibia to stabilize it and screws and pins were used to stabilize injuries to foot and ankle bones.
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