Emergency surgery may have saved Miller’s leg

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 31, 2017

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bears tight end Zach Miller had surgery to save his left leg after he tore an artery while dislocating his knee during Sunday’s loss at New Orleans.
The team said the “urgent” operation Sunday to repair a torn popliteal artery was successful. Miller remains at University Medical Center New Orleans, with team medical personnel and his wife and father by his side, after suffering a career-threatening injury.
Coach John Fox said Monday a vein was taken from the right leg to fix his left one. He said the pulse in Miller’s lower leg was good and that he had feeling in his foot.
“Not that he’s out of the woods by any stretch but it’s as good as could be expected at this point,” Fox said.
Fox was unsure if Miller remains in jeopardy of losing his leg, though amputation appears unlikely because he received immediate attention.
“If you don’t have blood flow to the leg and it’s been more than eight hours, you can have a likelihood of having to amputate the leg as high as 80-plus percent,” said Dr. Alexis Colvin, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital.
“But in his (case), everything was very timely. Everyone saw it. The injury had immediate attention to it. It’s pretty unlikely.”
She said it’s “almost a certainty” Miller has torn ligaments. But the blood vessel is the more immediate priority.
Doctors need to make sure the leg is getting the proper blood flow. Clotting is a concern, as is damage to the peroneal nerve — which provides sensation and motor function to the lower leg.
As for torn ligaments?
“It’s not a question of if he does, it’s a question of how many,” Colvin said.
She said the anterior cruciate and posterior cruciate ligaments are most likely to be torn in Miller’s case. Colvin also said he likely will walk again because he received immediate treatment, though that largely hinges on the blood vessel healing.
Miller dislocated his knee when he landed in the end zone attempting to catch a 25-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell Trubisky. The injury, which was replayed several times on the scoreboard, forced the 33-year-old tight end to be carted off and taken to the hospital.
After a replay review, officials ruled the ball hit the ground when Miller bobbled it on his way down.
“I was talking to Kristen — his wife — and he basically snagged the phone from her,” Fox said. “I was actually shocked to hear his voice because … I wasn’t there during the surgery, didn’t know the recovery process.
“But typical Zach, he was arguing about catch, no catch. But very supportive of the team. Very unselfish. That’s just him, and it’s genuine. It’s real, and I just kind of shared that back. He’s got all our love and prayers coming his way. He was basically telling us to hang in there. But that’s him. That’s just the kind of person he is and the kind of teammate he is.”
The injury is the latest in a long line for Miller, third on the team in catches (20) and second in yards receiving (236).
“I didn’t really want to believe it,” receiver Tre McBride said. “I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t realize that that (amputation) was even a possible consequence of having a dislocated knee. So when I heard that, that was the last thing I was expecting to hear.”
He called Miller a role model he has leaned on since the Bears claimed him off waivers a week before the opener.
Miller also missed the final six games last season after playing well enough for Chicago in 2015 to receive a two-year contract from the Bears following that season.
But he has had trouble staying healthy since Jacksonville drafted him in 2009.
A shoulder injury limited Miller to four games in 2011. He did not appear in a game the next three seasons while battling calf and foot injuries.
“It’s a huge loss from the field to the locker room,” defensive end Jonathan Bullard said. “His personality — a fun guy to be around.”

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