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Kevin Ware injury comeback possible by ‘end of next season,’ says orthopaedic surgeon

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UofL orthopaedic surgery chair cites ‘tremendous progress’ made in compound fracture treatment

 LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Modern orthopaedic treatments can enable University of Louisville men’s basketball player Kevin Ware to come back from the devastating injury he sustained in the Cardinals’ win over Duke Sunday (March 31), said the chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at UofL.

Dr. Craig Roberts spoke about Ware’s injury and his good chances for recovery after the Cardinals nailed a Final Four berth with an 85-63 win over the Duke Blue Devils in the NCAA Midwest Region final. During the first half, Ware, a 6-foot-2 sophomore guard, was contesting an outside shot in front of his own team’s bench when he landed awkwardly. His leg buckled, bending almost at a right angle, causing a compound fracture of the tibia, commonly known as the shinbone, breaking the leg in two places.

Roberts has served as team physician for numerous high school, college and professional organizations. He currently serves as the team physician for the UofL field hockey team and said Ware’s prognosis is promising.

“The outcome of compound fractures – also known as open fractures – of the tibia have come a long way from the days when they were universally fatal from bleeding or gangrene, or meant an immediate loss of limb, such as that depicted in the amputation scene from the movie ‘Dances with the Wolves’ with Kevin Costner.  While they are still considered serious injuries, times have changed all for the better,” Roberts said.

“Tremendous progress in the treatment of open fractures of the tibia has occurred to the point that they have become routine and common injuries at American trauma centers.

“The technique of fracture fixation of the tibial shaft usually involves what is known as intramedually nailing where a metal nail is placed in the center or medullary cavity of the bone, a technique which goes back to the German surgeon Gerhard Kuntcher more than 70 years ago.

“I anticipate that efficient, expert acute care of the wound and fractures, regular follow-up care for fracture and soft tissue healing, superb phyiscal therapy and sports-specific rehabilitation, and a strong work ethic and great attitude will allow Keven Ware to come back before the end of next season. In fact, I think we will see tremendous progress as early as three months after injury.”

Roberts received his medical degree from the New York University Medical School. After completing a one-year general surgery internship at New York University Medical Center/Bellevue Hospital and the Manhattan V.A. Medical Center, Roberts performed his orthopaedic surgery residency at the same institutions, serving as chief resident his final year. He then accepted a two-year fellowship in Orthopaedic Research, Sports Medicine, Biomechanics, Arthroscopy and Knee Reconstructive Surgery at the Cincinnati Sportsmedicine and Orthopaedic Center. He later earned his master’s degree in business administration from Auburn University’s physician executive MBA program.

He joined the UofL faculty in 1993 and was named department chair in 2011.