Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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Boston Aftermath: Recovery after amputation

Many of the people who were fortunate enough to survive yesterday's tragedy at the Boston Marathon face a long road to recovery-both physically and emotionally.

Boston Aftermath: Recovery after amputation

Medical workers aid an injured man at the 2013 Boston Marathon following an explosion in Boston, Monday, April 15, 2013. Two bombs exploded near the finish of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing at least two people, injuring at least 22 others and sending authorities rushing to aid wounded spectators. (AP Photo/The Boston Globe, David L. Ryan)
Medical workers aid an injured man at the 2013 Boston Marathon following an explosion in Boston, Monday, April 15, 2013. Two bombs exploded near the finish of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing at least two people, injuring at least 22 others and sending authorities rushing to aid wounded spectators. (AP Photo/The Boston Globe, David L. Ryan)

Many of the people who were fortunate enough to survive yesterday’s tragedy at the Boston Marathon face a long road to recovery—both physically and emotionally. At the top of that list are those spectators or competitors who suffered traumatic amputations of limbs after the devastating blasts.

Information on the injured is spotty right now. But Sports Doc talked to Carol Owens, PT, GCS, Therapy Manager at Magee Riverfront on the road to recovery that those affected will face.

In her 23 years in PT, Owens has treated many patients with amputations. While most of those patients lost limbs due to disease (non-traumatic amputations), she’s also seen those who’ve been injured in car or motorcycle crashes and have unexpectedly lost limbs as a result.

“I think the biggest challenge for a traumatic amputee is that you don’t always have very healthy tissue,” Owens says. “You’re often working with grafted tissue from other sites. In addition, you may have injuries to other parts of the body to contend with as well.”

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Once healing takes place the next step is to get the injured patient up onto a prosthesis—a step that Owens says should be accelerated and performed as soon as possible. Again, this is particularly challenging with traumatic amputations due to the compromised skin around the affected area. “Once the patient is up and moving, we’re doing as much strengthening as possible of the remaining muscles in the affected limb,” she continued.

Of course, beyond and perhaps greater than the physical ramifications of rehab are the emotional implications of limb loss. It’s unknown whether any of the most seriously injured were race participants, but the mere idea of losing a limb would be devastating to anyone let alone a marathon runner.

“These patients run the gamut of emotions,” confirms Owens. “A person who’s in the shape to run a marathon likely has a great competitive spirit. So imagine going from an elite runner to ‘I’m in a hospital bed, and I’m missing a limb.’ It’s quite a journey.”

Owens says that the first mental hurdle is getting the patient to accept that the missing or amputated limb becomes a part of who they are. “Sometimes, they don’t even want to look at that leg,” she admits. “They don’t want to touch it, or put a prosthetic on it at all. It becomes a period of mourning for the limb and for the life they had.”

At Magee, the AmpPeers program pairs amputees with similar personality traits or lifestyles to help them navigate what is potentially the greatest challenge of their lives. But an effective therapist can make all the difference.

“It’s our job to help them through that as best they can,” concludes Carol Owens. Perhaps the best news is that a marathon runner has a huge advantage in bouncing back because of the physical condition they’ve maintained to that point.”

To learn more about the AmpPeers program, visit www.mageerehab.org/amputee-support.php


Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.

Robert Senior Event coverage, Sports Doc contributor
About this blog

Whether you are a weekend warrior, an aging baby boomer, a student athlete or just someone who wants to stay active, this blog is for you. Read about our growing list of expert contributors here.

Brian Cammarota, MEd, ATC, CSCS, CES Partner at Symetrix Sports Performance
Desirea D. Caucci, PT, DPT, OCS Co-owner of Conshohocken Physical Therapy, Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Michael G. Ciccotti, M.D. Head Team Physician for Phillies & St. Joe's; Rothman Institute
Julie Coté, PT, MPT, OCS, COMT Magee Rehabilitation Hospital
Peter F. DeLuca, M.D. Head Team Physician for Eagles, Head Orthopedic Surgeon for Flyers; Rothman Institute
Joel H. Fish, Ph.D. Director of The Center For Sport Psychology; Sports Psychology Consultant for 76ers & Flyers
R. Robert Franks, D.O. Team Physician for USA Wrestling, Consultant for Phillies; Rothman Institute
Ashley B. Greenblatt, ACE-CPT Certified Personal Trainer, The Sporting Club at The Bellevue
Eugene Hong, MD, CAQSM, FAAFP Team Physician for Drexel, Philadelphia Univ., Saint Joe’s, & U.S. National Women’s Lacrosse
Martin J. Kelley, PT, DPT, OCS Advanced Clinician at Penn Therapy and Fitness, Good Shepherd Penn Partners
Julia Mayberry, M.D. Attending Hand & Upper Extremity Surgeon, Main Line Hand Surgery P.C.
Jim McCrossin, ATC Strength and Conditioning Coach, Flyers and Phantoms
Kevin Miller Fitness Coach, Philadelphia Union
Heather Moore, PT, DPT, CKTP Owner of Total Performance Physical Therapy, North Wales and Hatfield, PA
Kelly O'Shea Senior Health Producer, Philly.com
Tracey Romero Sports Medicine Editor, Philly.com
David Rubenstein, M.D. Team Orthopedist for 76ers; Main Line Health Lankenau Medical Center
Robert Senior Event coverage, Sports Doc contributor
Justin Shaginaw, MPT, ATC Athletic Trainer for US Soccer Federation; Aria 3B Orthopaedic Institute
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