Clever Surgical Procedure Gives Boston Pitcher Proper Footing
Oct. 25, 2004 (Boston) -- Up two games to zip, the Boston Red Sox don't look like a team that's hanging on by a thread -- but that is just what happened when Boston's Curt Schilling took the mound Sunday with a loose ankle tendon repaired by a quick fix from an orthopaedic surgeon.
The 37-year-old pitcher, sporting a bloody sock as evidence of his injury, pitched for six innings, allowing just four hits and no earned runs as Boston went on to win 6-2.
William G. Hamilton, MD, a foot and ankle consultant to the New York Giants, New York Knicks, and New York Yankees tells WebMD that the fix to Schilling's ankle is really a breakthrough approach. "This temporary fix is really clever," says Hamilton who is the foot and ankle surgeon to the New York City Ballet and the American Ballet Theater and senior attending orthopaedic surgeon at New York's St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital Center.
Schilling's injury is not particularly rare, for example it often happens to "skiers who fall backwards when their boot is locked into the ski, which creates a real backward pull on the foot." What happens, he says, is that one of the two tendons that supports the ankle pop out of "a sort of groove. The tendons are held in the groove by a thin layer of muscle and when the tendon pops out, that muscle is torn."
The normal repair requires surgery to reposition the tendon and repair the sheath that holds it in place, he says. "But clearly there was no time for that kind of surgery during a World Series," he says. Or during a pennant race -- the fix for last night's game was actually the second time Schilling had this quick-fix surgery. He underwent a similar procedure before pitching in game six of the American League Championship series in which the Red Sox beat the New York Yankees in seven games.
So, the Red Sox orthopaedic surgeon, Bill Morgan, MD, came up with a quick and unique fix, "he just sutured the tendon into place and it seems to working," Hamilton says. He notes that Morgan could attempt the quick fix because time is not a big factor in this type of injury. "If the real repair surgery is delayed for days or weeks, it won't affect the outcome."
And how important is an ankle to a pitcher? "Very, the ankle affects everything so stability is very important," says Hamilton.
If the Red Sox win the fall classic it will mark the first World Championship for the team since 1918.