Following his horrendous leg injury last week, Kevin Ware has to be in better spirits as his Louisville teammates beat Wichita State Saturday night to advance to the title game of the NCAA finals. Ware has already undergone surgery for what is being described as one of the most gruesome sports injuries of all time. Basketball players and athletes may be wondering how this injury, in which both leg bones, the fibula and tibia broke and protruded out of Ware’s skin after landing a jump, could have happened and how they can prevent such injuries in the future.
There are several underlying factors that could have contributed to the development of Ware’s fractures. Most likely, is that he developed stress fractures in his tibia, the larger bone of the leg. Bones of the foot and leg are subject to excessive stress during sports due to the repetitive nature of motions involved. Stress fractures most commonly occur in the foot in the metatarsals, followed by the calcaneus and then the tibia. In basketball, both running and repeated jumping and landing add stress. Because bone is constantly remodeling, when excess stress occurs it disrupts the normal balance of bone breakdown and building. A stress fracture may not initially appear on a plain x-ray and bone scan or MRI may be needed to obtain a diagnosis. When a stress fracture occurs in the tibia, symptoms may feel similar to shin splints including pain and mild swelling of the shin. It is for this reason, that consulting your doctor about any pain in your feet and legs is imperative to continuing to play your sport, and your overall health. If Ware had been previously diagnosed with stress fractures, it would have been recommended that he remain non-weight bearing on his affected leg. By avoiding weight-bearing, the excess stress is removed, and bone remodeling may occur and strengthen the site of the fracture. If weight-bearing continues, bone continues to weaken and is at higher risk for the extreme type of fracture that Ware experienced.
Unusual fractures may also be attributed to other causes of abnormal bone. These include osteoporosis, which is more common in older females, and bone tumors, which commonly affect the lower extremity. Ware’s age group of 20-30 is a time in which a variety of types of bone tumor may develop. While there are malignant bone tumors that can occur in the foot and leg, most are benign other than causing weakening of the bone and in some cases, pain. Bone cysts and enchondromas are two bone tumors that are benign, common in the lower extremity and often painless unless they contribute to the development of a fracture.
Ware luckily underwent successful surgery utilizing a rod to repair his broken bones on the evening of his injury and has been able to continue providing motivation and support to his team as they advance in the NCAA finals.
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