Week Thirteen: Denver Broncos Safety Rahim Moore Injures Lower Leg
Rahim left the game against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second quarter with what was called a “lower leg injury”. After returning home from Kansas City, Rahim woke up in the middle of the night in severe pain. He was then rushed into emergency surgery to repair his lateral compartment of his lower leg.
There are many different muscles that control complex motion of the lower leg. The fascia binds these muscles into groups of muscles called a compartment. There are four compartments of the lower leg: anterior, lateral, posterior (deep and superficial). The lateral compartment holds the muscles that point the foot downward and evert the foot outward. Thus, when a significant trauma occurs, it can cause fluid to accumulate into one of these compartments via swelling or bleeding and increase the pressure of this compartment of the lower leg. Acute compartment syndrome is said to be life and limb threatening because the increase in pressure decreases blood flow to muscles. Decreased blood flow in turn results in a lack of oxygen available for tissue and nerve cells. Unless the pressure is relieved quickly, permanent disability and tissue death may occur along with possible nerve damage. This is often performed surgically via a procedure called a fasciotomy, in which the fascia is incised at key points long the muscle compartment to alleviate the pressure and improve the local blood flow to these muscles that have been compromised.
The more common symptoms for compartment syndrome are generalized pain, tingling or burning, tightness, numbness and paralysis. Athletes can also have chronic compartment syndrome which is related to increased blood flow during exercise that causes the muscles to swell. This condition is often resolved with rest and physical therapy for proper stretching and strengthening to better manage an environment for proper healing.
Early detection and management is imperative in managing an acute and chronic compartment syndrome successfully. The symptoms Rahim experienced likely saved his lower leg, as he was able to detect there was a problem and sought treatment immediately.
Kim Blanchard, PT, MPT, ATC
Partner Physical Therapist – Oro Valley Clinic
10355 N. La Canada Dr., Suite 125
Oro Valley, AZ 85737