Monday, we got a glimpse of Alex Smith for the first time since his horrific leg injury suffered in November. The Washington Redskins quarterback attended the Washington Wizards’ game against the Detroit Pistons at Capital One Arena.
While it was an encouraging sight to see, the large apparatus on his injured leg did not go unnoticed. Even with him walking around the Wizards’ locker room after the game on crutches, the device was glaring.
What was that device?
Famed sports orthopedic David J. Chao, MD speculated that the device is an external fixator. He also speculates that the device confirms all the reports of complications following the initial repair surgery Smith endured that forced him to stay in the hospital a month.
Chao says the device “serves to hold the bones in place since the hardware from his initial surgery had to be removed.”
This would mean that Smith is in store for a lengthy recovery, as reports suggested after it was revealed he underwent several additional surgeries to combat the infection he developed after the initial surgery.
Chao says the good news is Smith won’t lose his leg due to the infection, however, he won’t be ready for the start of the 2019 season, and he may not play another down all together, as he will need several additional surgeries.
“The bad news is he likely has several surgeries and procedures still to come, including the ultimate removal of his ring external fixator. At this point, there is no way he will be ready for the start of the coming season. In fact, he may never be able to play.
The next thing to watch for are reports of a free flap graft.
This is where there is exposed bone from the debridement of infected tissue and where doctors take a muscle from another part of his body and reconnect it to the leg area to cover the exposed area where infected tissue was removed.
If this happens (or has happened), that would make it hard for Smith to return to football at all.”David J. Chao, MD / San Diego Union Tribune
It’s worth noting despite of Chao’s expertise, he was not the doctor who performed any of Smith’s surgeries nor is he the treating physician for his recovery. However, his opinion on Smith’s condition seems to point to what many already suspected at the sight of the injury back in November.
What we know is that Smith underwent emergency surgery to repair the broken fibula and tibia he suffered in his compound fracture and prevent infection from such an injury. He stayed in the hospital a month, and it was reported he indeed developed an infection that required multiple additional surgeries.
When Smith was released from the hospital in December, a large Redskins blanket covered up his injured right leg, as seen in the Instagram post his wife shared. The Redskins asked on behalf of Smith’s family for privacy.
Washington enters this offseason with a large question mark at quarterback. It appears they will comb through their options whether in free agency or the draft, as there is a great deal of uncertainty involving Smith.
“We’re obviously hopeful he can turn a corner and start the rehab process and possibly get back on the field,” Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said last month per Adam Shefter of ESPN. “That’s all we can hope for right now.”