Odell Beckham Jr and JJ Watt – Ankle and Tibial Plateau Fractures

Odell Beckham Jr and JJ Watt , two NFL superstars, went down with unfortunate lower leg fractures this past weekend.  Both are very serious injuries and will likely require urgent season-ending surgery.

Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants all-pro wide receiver sustained an ankle fracture while being tackled, attempting to make a catch.  Ankle fractures can range in severity from a nondisplaced fracture of one of the bones (distal tibia or fibula), to a fracture-dislocation with multiple bones broken and possible ligament damage.  The latter definitely requires surgery with plates and screws to restore the anatomy of the ankle.   Post-op recovery usually entails weight-bearing restrictions and physical therapy over the course of months, while allowing the bones to heal.  Full-recovery can be achieved, although some deficits, such as ankle stiffness may persist.   

J.J. Watt, all-everything Houston Texan also sustained a broken leg – a tibial plateau fracture.  The tibial plateau is the upper end of the shin bone that is also the bottom portion of the knee joint.  Again, the fracture can range from a less severe nondisplaced lateral plateau fracture, to a more severe fracture with multiple broken pieces and displacement of the surface of the knee joint.  Complications associated with higher severity fractures may include compartment syndrome, nerve or artery damage, infection, and/or the development of post-traumatic arthritis of the knee.  The more severe fractures are usually caused by motor vehicle accidents or falls from a height, but can occur in sporting events as well.  Surgery is usually indicated and dependent on a number of factors, but especially the degree of displacement and alignment of the fracture fragments involving knee joint itself.  Surgery would likely entail plate and screw fixation with or without bone graft/cement.  Again, recovery is arduous, and requires months of non-weightbearing, bracing, and physical therapy as the bone heals.

  

Assuming both of these surgeries go well, these players are looking forward to a long road to recovery.  These are the type of injuries that have the potential to be career-ending or altering.  With that being said, given the fact that these two players are “superhuman,” I do expect full recoveries by next season.