Recently, ESPN aired a one hour “E:60” Special on Washington Redskins Quarterback and former #1 overall pick Alex Smith, giving us a detailed look behind the scenes at his arduous recovery from a horrific lower leg compound fracture. Smith was injured in November of 2018 and has since undergone 19 surgeries and spent over 9 months in an external fixator as a result of this injury. He is still recovering now, almost two years since the initial injury. At one point, Smith was frighteningly close to requiring an amputation because of an uncontrolled infection spreading through his entire leg.
Due to the scope of the damage in Smith’s leg, the injury was considered to be more of a “leg salvage” situation and less of a sports medicine type injury. As a result, Smith was approved for a consult at the US Military’s Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio, Texas. The Center for the Intrepid specializes in rehabilitation of severe lower extremity injuries resulting in either amputation or some form of massive lower extremity soft tissue loss. Tragically, hundreds of our military suffer these injuries as a result of stepping on an IED. A primary rehab tool in physical therapy like this is Blood Flow Restriction Training. Jonny Owens of Owens Recovery Science is a pioneer of this technique and is featured in the episode putting Smith through a BFR regimen. In 2016, Owens Recovery Science certified all FBPT therapists in this technique and BFR is something we use with great effect frequently in the clinic. We find it particularly useful in post-operative cases (ACL, meniscal repair, cartilage repair, etc) and in other diagnoses that don’t tolerate weight-bearing or heavy joint loading well.
To see Blood Flow Restriction Training used at the highest level with an elite level, check out the E60 episode here: https://www.espn.com/watch/player?id=3613984&bucketId=6200.