Thurman Thomas, Running Back for the Buffalo Bills

From the WebMD Archives

NAME: Thurman Thomas

TEAM: Buffalo Bills (Football)

POSITION: Running Back

INJURY: Liver and Kidney Contusions


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Thomas injured his kidney and liver on the first play of the '99 season. While extending to catch a pass, he was hit in the ribs. He left the game, missed the following 12 weeks, and was cleared to return on December 12.


In his 12 years with the Bills, 33-year-old Thurman Thomas has helped lead them to four straight Super Bowls and was selected to five Pro Bowls. He broke O.J. Simpson's Bills record by rushing for 1,000 yards in eight consecutive seasons. Before this season, he had missed only eight games in 11 seasons. In 1992, his best season, he recorded 2,113 yards from scrimmage -- best in the NFL that year and 9th all-time. While attending Oklahoma State, he was a first-team All-American and was first-team All-Big Eight three years running.


A contusion to either the liver or kidney is a bruise that affects the specific organ. The organs are bruised by direct trauma to the flank area (on the right side of the body, above the pelvis).


A kidney contusion can be diagnosed many different ways. It can be palpated (physically felt); the patient's urine can be tested for blood; or the doctor can perform an ultrasound, CT scan, or dye study. The pain is described as moderately severe, although it varies depending on the patient.


The treatment of a contusion to the kidney or liver is rest and plenty of IV fluids. There is little that can be done to help the healing process, which may be slow.


The only way to prevent the injury is to protect the abdominal region. Padding will decrease the chance of bruising, although normal football padding does not protect the flank area. The "back flap" worn by some players, is too high; only the bulky and awkward flack jacket protects the region.



In most cases, the recovery period is 3-4 weeks, during which time the player rests the abdomen. When the pain begins to subside, the doctor will take CT scans to assure that the hematoma (a swelling filled with blood as a result of the bruise) has subsided. It is vital that the athlete be kept out of competition long enough for the contusion to heal. If there is any question as to whether he is ready, he will not be cleared to play. Because Thomas injured both organs severely, he missed far more time than athletes with the injury usually do.


Thomas should suffer no ill effects from his injury.

Related medical information was provided by Jack McPhilemy, DO, professor and chairman of the department of orthopedic surgery at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. McPhilemy is the team physician for the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers.

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