In recent weeks, we’ve seen some severe sports injuries. Cleveland Browns’ Alex Mack broke his leg and Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant just suffered what’s known as a Jones fracture, just to name a few.
A Jones fracture occurs an inch or two down the fifth metatarsal, or the bone on the outside of the foot. It’s difficult to heal without surgery and takes players out of the game for about 8 to 10 weeks. The good news is they normally come back with little to no long-term issues.
On Oct. 15, I had the chance to speak with WAKR morning show host Jasen Sokol about this injury, which holds some historical significance in Cleveland. Jim Chones suffered from this fracture in the “Miracle of Richfield” that prevented the Cavs from winning a championship in 1976.
Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion.
SOKOL: Dr. Joe Congeni joins us on the line right now. Good morning.
DR. CONGENI: Jasen, how you doin’?
SOKOL: I’m doing well, and uh, we’ve seen some pretty gruesome sports injuries the last few weeks here, Joe.
DR. CONGENI: We have. You know one thing that I could say, Jasen, for sure if you’re watching a game … unfortunately, people who watch with me they have to get the medical input … when you see something like with Alex Mack (of the Cleveland Browns) when they bring the meat wagon out, that’s not a good sign because usually you can walk a guy off the field.
The other thing that’s definitely not a good sign is the inflatable splint. I don’t know if you saw, but when they inflated the splint around his leg, the doctor that’s out there and the medical team and the trainer are really thinking it’s probably a fracture. So, you could tell with Alex Mack before he left the field that his leg was broken.
SOKOL: Yeah, no doubt. Now, is there a name for that?
DR. CONGENI: For which? For the injury that Alex Mack had? No.
I was actually gonna talk today a little about another pretty important player, an MVP in the NBA by the name of Kevin Durant (of the Oklahoma City Thunder). Did you see about him having a Jones fracture?
SOKOL: Yeah, I saw that name and I didn’t know what that was. What is that?
DR. CONGENI: Yeah. It goes back over 100 years, this name historically. But what it is, and people know it in medical terms, it’s a fracture on the outside of the foot in the fifth metatarsal. So you know we have all those bones of the toe, and the fifth one is the one on the outside.
If you look at your foot, you can see a bump on the outside part of the foot. There’s a big strong tendon that attaches there, and if the foot rolls, the tendon can actually pull off a small piece of the bone. That’s not a big deal. That’s called an avulsion fracture and people are back playing in 2 or 3 weeks if they get one of those.
But, down another inch or two into the fifth metatarsal is a bone with really bad blood flow, or a part of the bone with bad blood flow, and if it cracks down there, an inch farther down the fifth metatarsal, everyone in orthopedic, musculoskeletal medicine knows it as a Jones fracture because it doesn’t heal well on its own.
You can’t just put it in a cast in an athlete. We used to do that in the ’60s and ’70s and everybody would re-break it and re-break it. It’s well known in Cleveland lore as being the part of the foot that Jim Chones broke in the “Miracle of Richfield” that stopped the Cavs from winning a championship in the year 1976.
SOKOL: Yeah, so that one is pretty well known. So, what’s the recovery time like on something like this?
DR. CONGENI: Yeah, the [treatment] nowadays is always surgery. They don’t even wait long. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was done or gonna be done quickly this week and then he’ll be back in about 8 to 10 weeks.
High-school players get ‘em quite a bit. They put a small screw in the fracture and then it’s like no big deal. They go about their career and have no more problems with it versus trying to cast it; trying to put it in a boot.
Sometimes for non-athletes, people put it in a boot, but it’s so limiting and it’s such an easy surgery that they do the surgery, put a small screw in that fifth metatarsal and generally people are back playing pretty well with no long-term implications in about 8 to 10 weeks.
SOKOL: Though 8 to 10 weeks, if you’re talking about a high-school player that could be their whole season.
DR. CONGENI: That is their whole season.
One of the best players in our area, who we’re now watching play on Saturdays, had one of these week 2 about 4 years ago — now he’s playing on a big D-I team in town — and he ended up missing the entire season all the way through week 10.
So, you’re right, that about fits a high-school season and if you get a Jones fracture, you’re pretty much gonna miss the whole season.
For Kevin Durant, they’ll just be what warming up by end of November or something like that when he comes back?
SOKOL: Yeah. That’s only about a month into the season, so that’s not a huge deal for him.
DR. CONGENI: Right. So it is one that’s pretty common, it’s really well known.
… Another Ohio [piece of] history, again I’m going back for you guys, but I know you have some listeners that go back a ways with me, there was a famous running back at Ohio State by the name of Keith Byars. Keith Byars was supposed to win the Heisman Trophy his senior year at Ohio State and he got a Jones fracture mid-season. They tried to play through and it broke and all this kind of stuff …. So, there are cases of this fracture.
Nowadays they just fix it within the first week and it doesn’t really cause [many] problems down the road.