March Madness: Kevin Ware's injury and prognosis

Louisville's Wayne Blackshear reacts to Kevin Ware's injury during the first half. (Darron Cummings/AP)

If you saw it, chances are you’ll never forget it.

In today’s Midwest regional final, Louisville Cardinals guard Kevin Ware suffered a broken leg on a seemingly routine play in the first half against Duke. Ware attempted to challenge a jump shot and landed awkwardly in front of his team’s bench. The game was delayed for about 15 minutes as doctors tended to the fallen player.

Ware, who broke his leg in two places, was resting this morning after successful surgery, the AP reports, in which a rod was inserted into his tibia.

We talked to Justin Shaginaw, MPT, ATC, lead therapist and coordinator for Sports Medicine at Aria 3B Orthopaedic Institute about Ware’s road to recovery. Shaginaw works with the United States Men’s Soccer Team and says he’s seen quite a few such injuries on the pitch.

“Most of those injuries are caused by slide tackles, where people come into contact with that area,” he says. “I’d say it’s a pretty common soccer injury.”

As traumatic as the injury appeared on TV, Shaginaw is optimistic for Ware’s chances of recovery. He says the key is the type of break sustained. “If it’s a clean break, the fracture will heal fine,” he says. “But if it’s a bad break [with the bone fragmented] then the fracture may not heal [as quickly or easily]. The biggest concern is whether there’s an injury to a nerve, artery or vein.”

Television reporters at the game were able only to confirm a broken leg. If that is indeed the totality of Ware’s prognosis, Shaginaw says he’s optimistic at the chances for a return to play.

“I would probably say 80-90 percent of players with similar injuries have returned to play,” he reports. “And maybe 60 percent or so are able to return at the same level.”

Shaginaw says that the appearance of the injury doesn’t always match the severity of amount of pain the player feels. But with this type of injury, recovery will be psychological as well as physical. Until Ware’s injury, the play couldn’t have been any more routine—a player challenging an outside jump shot. After an incident like this, will Ware be mentally able to return to playing basketball at a high level?

“These are tough ones to come back from,” Shaginaw admits. “My guess is that this injury could be somewhat easier to come back from than a football or soccer tackle, because that involves another player injuring you. People can be hesitant to return to that sort of contact. Hopefully since this was more of an awkward landing, it might be a little easier. But he definitely faces a challenging recovery.”

Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.