Clinton should recover fully from knee surgery
March 14, 1997
Web posted at: 7:17 p.m. EST (0017 GMT)
(CNN) -- President Clinton is expected to recover fully from
knee surgery, although he will need a brace and crutches for
several weeks, and he'll have to undergo careful
The 50-year-old Clinton caught his heel on a step at the
Florida estate of Australian golfer Greg Norman early Friday,
tearing the quadriceps tendon connecting the kneecap to the
muscle of the upper thigh in his right leg.
The injury is common, especially in sports, and about 7,000
people a year in the United States are hospitalized by it.
Doctors who examined the president say more than 50 percent
of his tendon was torn, but it was not completely severed.
'He heard a very loud pop'
Four major muscles that descend from the thigh come together
at the quadriceps tendon, which connects to the kneecap then
extends below that to the top of the lower leg.
The function of the muscles and tendon is to straighten out
the leg with each stride, and they are essential to normal
walking or jogging. When going down steps, as the president
was doing, the muscles may be subjected to force equivalent
to three times a person's body weight, doctors say.
When Clinton stumbled, the sudden muscle contraction as he
tried to catch himself likely overloaded the tendon. "He
heard a very loud pop," one aide said.
Surgery time can vary
Doctors said the surgery to repair such a tendon tear is
common and straightforward.
"A good surgeon can do the job in just a half hour or so,"
said Dr. Kenneth Fine, director of the George Washington
University sports medicine center. "It is not very
"A number of sutures allow it to heal," orthopedic surgeon
Dr. Drew Miller added. In the president's case, the surgery
lasted two hours.
Clinton had a "regional" anesthetic that numbed him
approximately from the mid-section down, so that he was never
rendered unconscious, White House spokesman Mike McCurry
said. Doctors said he was alert most of the time.
|Knee injuries by the numbers|
Source: American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
- Almost 5 million people visit orthopedic surgeons in the
United States each year because of knee problems.
- More than 3 million of the visits are injury-related; the
rest are due to arthritis or other illnesses.
- Another 1.4 million people go to the hospital emergency
room for knee problems.
- About 7,000 hospital visits are recorded each year for
torn quadriceps tendon, and 25 percent of those patients were
45-64 years of age.
- In 1994, there were more than 300,000 knee procedures
done in the United States.
The tendon is repaired by drilling holes into the top of the
kneecap and attaching the tendon to the bone with thread or
wire anchored in the holes. The leg is then put into a cast
or brace to keep it perfectly straight, to put the least
amount of pressure on the tendon.
Clinton should be out of the hospital in a few days and will
be able to get around using crutches and a knee brace.
Rehabilitation will begin with range-of-motion exercises.
Strength exercises will be slowly added to gradually rebuild
muscle strength. Middle-age people typically recover fully,
although in older patients it is not uncommon for there to be
a residual stiffness in the knee.
"It could be 12 weeks before a person is back jogging again,"
Correspondent Andrew Holtz contributed to this report.
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