Men's Sports

Sports Docs Weekly Blitz: Tibial plateau fracture ends JJ Watt’s year

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A seemingly innocuous stumble has caused a possible career-ending injury for one of the NFL’s favorite players. A minor misstep and resultant angulatory stress on JJ’s Watts’ left knee fractured the lower half of his knee joint. This area is called the tibial plateau.

Typically it takes an extreme injury to create a tibial plateau fracture in a young athlete. The fracture results from a very high stress on either the inner or outer half of the knee joint causing severe compression to this region. The tibial plateau, or the flat surface of the tibia in the joint, can fracture.

The severity of this injury can vary greatly. Some can be treated with crutches and a brace. Others require surgery to realign the fractured joint surface augmented with a large plate for fixation and bone grafting. There is reason to believe that JJ will need such surgery.

These factors involve the critical bearing surface of the knee, and plateau fractures often resemble a “crunched eggshell.” These fractures require significant skill to realign.  The fracture fragments are small and usually multiple. Restoration of a smooth joint surface is the goal of treatment.

Even after surgery with plate and screw fixation and bone grafting, the zone of injury in the knee is not durable. An athlete often remains non-weightbearing for two months or more. To place weight-bearing on the joint would cause the joint surface to collapse.

Ligament injuries may also occur with tibial plateau fractures.

We know JJ is getting the best care and we hope that his final knee joint allows full sports activity in the future.

And just one more time….Isn’t it great to be a Cyclone!?!? What a game last Saturday. Perfect execution by every player who stepped on the field and by every coach. Wow.

Dr. Peter Buck

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