Dr. Steven Sanders, who performed the surgery on former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva’s broken leg in the early hours of Sunday morning, detailed the procedure and recovery process during a media conference call on Monday.
Silva broke both the tibia and fibula in his left leg during the UFC 168 main event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Dec. 28 when champion Chris Weidman checked an inside leg kick. The fractures occurred about equal distance from the ankle. Sanders described the injury as “fairly severe,” and the leg was stabilized inside the Octagon.
Silva was transported to Universal Medical Center in Las Vegas, and after being counseled by doctors, decided to proceed with immediate surgery. The procedure took “about an hour,” and consisted of having a titanium rod inserted in the tibia. Three screws were placed in the rod to stabilize the bone while the fibula is expected to heal on its own. The titanium rod will likely remain in Silva’s leg for the rest of his life, unless he elects to have it removed after the healing process is complete.
While the injury was unfortunate, Silva was lucky that it wasn’t worse. Had the bone punctured the skin, the likelihood of infection would have escalated and could have resulted, in some cases, with amputation of the limb.
Dr. Sanders expects Silva’s bones to re-assume their original strength and believes the 38-year-old could return to fighting. The bones should heal within three to six months, and Silva could be back to training in six to nine months. Silva’s age will play no factor in the healing process.
According to the surgeon, Silva asked, prior to being placed under general anesthesia before surgery, “when can I train?” Since the procedure, Silva has repeatedly asked the same question.
Following surgery, Silva was placed in a posterior splint and is already using crutches. He faces a long recovery ahead, but will be able to put some weight on the leg in a few weeks. After the bones heal, Silva will enter the rehabilitation phase to strengthen the muscles and soft tissue. The bones themselves will not require any rehabilitation.
He’ll start with range of motion rehab on his knee and angle and then move on to weight bearing rehabilitation.
Silva remains in the hospital with no timeframe for release. Typically, patients with injuries similar to Silva’s remain hospitalized for several days.