What is a comminuted open fracture? Doctors explain Tiger Woods’ leg injuries

Tiger Woods escaped with his life in a car accident on Tuesday morning, but suffered "significant" leg injuries that required extensive surgery and the insertion of a bar into his right lower leg.
Woods suffered "comminuted open fractures affecting both the upper and lower tibia and fibula," said Dr. Anish Mahajan, Interim CEO and Chief Medical Officer of Harbor-UCLA Hospital, where Woods was brought to the trauma center and treated.
"Crushed" means multiple fragments of the tibia and fibula have broken, ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell told the network on Wednesday morning. "Open fractures" are also known as compound fractures, which means that the bone has gone through the skin.
Doctors put a bar through the tibia (the goal is for the bone around it to heal) with a "combination of screws and pins" to stabilize additional bone in the ankle and foot, indicating multiple injuries.
Tiger Woods' vehicle after it was involved in a rollover accident in Rancho Palos Verdes, California on February 23, 2021. Woods had to be rescued from the wreck by Los Angeles County firefighters and is currently in the hospital.
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Tiger Woods' vehicle after it was involved in a rollover accident in Rancho Palos Verdes, California on February 23, 2021. Woods had to be rescued from the wreck by Los Angeles County firefighters and is currently in the hospital. Harrison Hill / USA today
"The surgery takes a long time because you have to put the right tension on, you have to reposition yourself," said Bell. "You're trying to get an anatomical alignment."
In addition, due to trauma to nearby muscles and soft tissues, doctors had to "surgically release" the muscle to reduce swelling. This is done to reduce damage to nerves or blood vessels, Bell said, and is common with "high-energy" injuries such as those seen in a high-speed automobile accident.
Bell said Woods should be monitored for infection, which is always a potential open wound problem, but doctors likely treated him with antibiotics and cleaned the area thoroughly before and during Woods' care.
Bell added that a trauma center usually prioritizes the most serious injuries and that the golf legend may require more surgery.
Los Angeles County fire chief Daryl Osby told reporters Tuesday that emergency services told him that both legs had been injured, although the extent of the injuries to his left leg was unknown.
Woods had his fifth back surgery in December and had previously fused a spine. Bell said recovery would look like "months, not weeks" after the initial release of information.
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