How Common Is That Gruesome Louisville Basketball Injury? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on April 03, 2013

How Common Is That Gruesome Louisville Basketball Injury?

If you were watching the NCAA basketball tournament Easter Sunday – or even if you weren’t – you probably saw the gruesome injury suffered by Louisville sophomore Kevin Ware. Ware leaped to try to block a shot, and when he landed – something basketball players do hundreds of times a game – his lower leg shattered. His teammates were visibly shaken, and several of them reportedly got sick to their stomachs. Afterwards, his coach, Rick Pitino, said the bone was sticking out of Ware’s skin about six inches.

It was horrifying for anyone who saw it.

But it leads to questions – how common is an injury like that? Can it be prevented? What caused it?

David Webner, M.D., a sports medicine physician at Crozer-Keystone Health System and a team physician for the Philadelphia Union, says that this injury is known as a “compound tib fib (tibia-fibula) fracture.” Webner says that Ware’s injury is rare in non-collision sports.

“The most common ways these [injuries] happen is from a massive trauma in a high-impact collision sport like football or motor vehicle accidents,” Webner says. While you don’t see an injury like that very often in basketball, it is somewhat more common in football and rugby; of course, there is generally impact from another player that’s causing the bone to snap.” He adds that fractures of the tibia and fibula (the two bones in the lower leg) can also be caused by general weakness in the bone and high-grade stress fractures caused by chronic repetitive overuse, as well as a tumor or cyst in the bone.

So who’s the culprit in Ware’s case? The public doesn’t yet know for sure, but Webner says “[it] could have been a perfect storm, and there may or may not have been any underlying pathology in the area to cause the injury.”

Ware had surgery Sunday night and a metal rod was inserted into his lower leg, which is standard for these types of injuries. Doctors seem to think he has a good chance for a full recovery, and Ware’s leg should heal like any other bone, which takes a year to fully heal.

As long as there aren’t any vascular injuries or infections resulting from Ware’s injury, Webner agrees that the Louisville player should be back in one year. However, he adds, “with any of these severe injuries, it probably takes them a good two years to get back to the level they were before.”

While Ware will most likely undergo standard rehabilitation therapy to recover, he will also need to learn to trust his leg once it heals. Webner says that getting over the injury psychologically will be one of the most difficult things to do, and everyone regains trust in the injured area differently.

Referring to the rehab process, Webner says the “biopsychosocial model” is key, since individuals “need to physically and mentally recover from such a severe injury.”

Crozer-Keystone Health System offers comprehensive musculoskeletal care. From conservative approaches to managing pain to spine and hand services, sports medicine, and joint replacement surgery, the physicians of the Premier/Crozer-Keystone Orthopedics Partnership will determine what plan works best for you.

Webner sees patients at the Springfield Healthplex, and patients can schedule an appointment within 24-48 hours. Call 1-877-CK-MOTION (1-877-256-6846) or visit

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