May 12, 2021
What is a comminuted open fracture? Doctors explain Tiger Woods’ leg injuries

What is a comminuted open fracture? Doctors explain Tiger Woods’ leg injuries

Tiger Woods escaped a Tuesday morning car accident with his life, but suffered “significant” leg injuries that required extensive surgery and a rod being inserted into his lower right leg.

Woods suffered “comminuted open fractures affecting both the upper and lower tibia and fibula” said Dr. Anish Mahajan, interim CEO and chief medical officer of Harbor-UCLA Hospital, where Woods was taken to the trauma center and treated. “Comminuted” means there were multiple fragments of the tibia and fibula shattering, ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell said on the network Wednesday morning. “Open fractures” are otherwise known as compound fractures, meaning the bone has protruded through the skin.

“This is all badness,” Dr. Robert Glatter, emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. “From an orthopedic standpoint, it’s an emergency. “I think he’s quite fortunate to be alive. The fact he had only isolate orthopedic injuries, that we know of so far, is pretty remarkable.” Doctors placed a rod through the tibia (goal is that bone heals around it), with a “combination of screws and pins” to stabilize additional bones in the ankle and foot, indicating multiple injuries in the area. “Surgery takes a long time because they have to put the right tension on it, they have to reposition,” Bell said. “They’re trying to get anatomical alignment.”

Dr. Sam Hawkins, a trauma surgeon at Staten Island University Hospital, said these types of procedures could last “hours and hours.” Furthermore, trauma to nearby muscle and soft tissue required doctors to “surgically release” the muscle to reduce swelling. That is otherwise known as a fasciotomy and is done to reduce nerve or blood vessel damage, Glatter said, which is common while treating “high-energy” injuries, such as those suffered during a high-speed car accident. Doctors all cautioned that Woods should be monitored for infection, which is always a potential issue for open wounds.

Hawkins said that any doctors would first address any injury to his blood vessels before repairing the fractures.

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