Catasauqua Press

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Medical staffs save NFL player’s leg

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 by The Press in Sports

Whether you are a fan of the National Football League or not these days, one thing that can’t be denied is the league has a lot of issues.

On top of the whole anthem debate, concussions are a big topic of conversation, and as much as my family and I love to watch the sport every Sunday, it’s a scary enough concern that my wife and I don’t plan to let our twin, 6-year-old boys ever take to a football field.

Even aside from concussions, there are enough other gruesome injuries almost every week. Broken bones and ACL tears will keep a player out for a while, but eventually they come back and usually continue to find success.

Bears tight end Zach Miller may have played his last game as an NFL player a couple of Sundays ago against the Saints, but it wasn’t because of a concussion. Miller suffered a dislocated knee while catching what looked like a touchdown pass - it was later disallowed because the ball hit the ground because he didn’t complete the process of the catch. And who could blame him when your knee dislocates ...

I was watching the game online because of all-important fantasy football implications of course, and happened to see the play live. At first, I didn’t notice the awkward bending of his leg. I saw him catch the ball and fall to the ground, reaching for his knee and not getting up.

I barely noticed the medical staffs working on Miller, and eventually the game went to a commercial break. Soon I realized the touchdown didn’t count, and I thought to myself, ‘what a way to end his season, catching a touchdown pass and tearing his ACL,’ before I just simply watched the next play in the next game that caught my attention.

Just moving on during another mindless Sunday afternoon of football ...

How shallow and insensitive of me, right? But it’s probably something we all do every week while watching sports.

It wasn’t until later I realized exactly what had happened to Miller. Replay after replay followed once word got out, and I could barely look. A knee so out of place, it torn his popliteal artery, which is located behind the knee. The popliteal artery is the only main blood supply to the leg below the knee, so this was a serious situation.

According to lots of medical stuff you can find online that I’ll never understand, blood flow needs to be restored within hours of the tear of this artery. And, surgery alone can often take several hours. Then factor in the amount of time it takes to get to the hospital and prepped for surgery. If blood isn’t restored within six hours, it can cause permanent muscle damage. Miller could have easily lost his leg because of this injury.

Can you imagine?

Fast forwarding, it appears Miller is on the mend, but probably not completely out of the woods yet. According to Bears head coach John Fox from an NFL.com story last week, Miller has a good pulse and good feeling in his leg and his foot is warm, all of which are very important signs at this point in the process.

The Chicago Tribune reports Miller likely had, and will likely have many more surgeries in his future. He apparently has three or four major knee ligaments torn that need to be repaired, and could also need more surgery related to the artery.

What I wish could get more attention in this story are the medical staffs of the Bears, Saints and the University Medical Center New Orleans who all worked together to quickly realize this was a serious situation. It’s truly amazing that, within moments, the problem was recognized and action was taken to save Miller’s leg. The whole process was fascinating to me, and the more I read, not a second was wasted.

Miller is only 33, but in terms of the NFL - and for lack of a better word - he’s old, and as a result, his career is likely over because of this injury. There have been a handful of similar injuries to NFL players and not one has returned with longevity. However, the good news is Miller will have both of his legs to walk on for what hopefully is a long life ahead.

It’s unfortunate, but I wasn’t able to find any kind of story or information about the people who saved Miller’s leg. Sure, every article I came across had “thanks to their quick work” or “the medical staff of both teams should be applauded” within the body of the article. But, nothing specifically about these every day heroes who probably saved many more people over the last week and a half.

But that’s how life works, when you do see names of medical professionals it probably means they did something wrong. Married to a nurse, I’m pretty familiar with the knowledge those in the field need to have to do their job. It’s nothing that could ever stick in my brain. For the record, I had to turn to page 37 of the Bears media guide to find their medical staff.

Ironically, as I was writing my final thoughts for this column, a story came out about an emotional tweet Miller recently put out thanking, and specifically mentioning, all the doctors who helped to save his leg, as well as the nursing staff that took care of him.

Now, I’m not saying go give your doctor a large tip or a big hug, not everyone loves doctors. But maybe next time there is a serious injury in a sporting event you’re watching, be it an NFL game or a high school game, pay a little more attention to the medical staffs who are working hard to analyze the situation as quickly as possible.

You never know what they may be in the process of saving.