Louisville guard Kevin Ware is recovering from surgery after his cringe-worthy leg break that occurred just before halftime against Duke University Sunday.
Ware sustained a horrifying fracture in the first half of the Midwest Regional final when he landed awkwardly after trying to contest a 3-point shot, breaking his leg in two places. He was taken off the court on a stretcher as his stunned teammates openly wept.
Doctors speculated Ware might have had stress fractures that predisposed him to such a break. He underwent a two-hour surgery after being rushed to a nearby hospital where his bone was reset with a rod placed into the tibia. When he woke up Cardinals coach Rick Pitino had a present for him — a trophy.
Before being taken off the court on a stretcher Ware called his distraught teammates over and told them to win the game. They did with a final score of 85-63.
“He was groggy, in good spirits. He saw us win the trophy and was crying and said it was all worthwhile,” Pitino told The Associated Press. “We didn’t cut down the net, but I left him the trophy.”
When Pitino recalled going over to help Ware up after the fall, he said he “almost literally threw up” when he saw the broken leg. Watch Pitino and players talk about the accident in a press conference after the team’s win:
Louisville trainer Fred Hina told Pitino it was the same injury that derailed the Heisman Trophy hopes of running back Michael Bush, who also played at Louisville. Bush recovered from the injury and has had a productive NFL career with Oakland and Chicago.
As it turned out, he was watching.
“I just cried,” he wrote on Twitter. “I feel so bad. Flashback of myself. Anyone if he needs anything please let me know.”
Dr. Reed Estes, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and team physician for the UAB football team, said basketball players are prone to stress fractures in the tibia, the larger of the two leg bones, and that can weaken them.
“If these are not detected they can result in a full fracture, particularly if the landing mechanics are just right” after a jump, Estes said. Surgery to stabilize the bones is usually successful, and Ware should be fine to play next season, he said.
The Cardinals now are waiting to find out when the sophomore will return to campus Tuesday and whether he can travel with them later this week to the Final Four in Atlanta.
The Associated Press and its Chief Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione contributed to this report.