On February 23, golfing superstar and icon Tiger Woods was involved in a rollover crash in California. This made world news but we wanted to give a description of his injury from an orthopedic surgeon’s perspective.
The exact details of Tiger Woods’ injuries are still unclear, but we do know that he sustained a “compound fracture” to his ankle and lower leg. We hear this term often but what does it really mean? A “compound fracture” describes an injury when the bone breaks and then protrudes out of the skin. This is the most severe type of fracture due to its inherent risk of infection, vessel injury, and possible compartment syndrome which can even result in amputation.
Urgent treatment of an open fracture is crucial to reduce the risk of infection. Treatment begins with taking the patient to the operating room and washing out the wound and then either placing hardware or placing an external fixator that temporarily holds the leg in a more anatomic position while the swelling is allowed to resolve and later internal plates or rods can be placed.
An open fracture of the lower leg can be a devastating injury. Complications can result in infection, blood clots, nerve damage, and even loss of limb. Tiger Woods has a long recovery ahead of him but he has beaten the odds before with ACL surgery, tibia fracture, and spine surgery. Let’s hope he can defy the odds again.