September 23, 2009
Not to be cold-hearted, but as far as football injuries go, James Montgomery's wonky knee seemed like a fairly routine ailment when Washington State's leading rusher left in the fourth quarter of the Cougars' eventual overtime win over SMU. Montgomery thought so, too -- he wasn't even sure when he had sustained it -- except the pain kept getting worse after the game, until he was forced to visit the team doctor, a former WSU player, who politely informed Montgomery that the discomfort he was experiencing could potentially kill him if he didn't go under the knife, pronto:
Close friend Dwight Tardy, a senior running back, said team doctor Ed Tingstad told him Montgomery "probably could have died" if a Sunday morning operation had been delayed too long. A wait of one to two hours might have led to amputation, Tardy said Tingstad told him.
"He (Tingstad) was pretty rattled and shook up," Tardy said. "He started crying."
It's a sure sign your injury is bad when the surgeon sheds a few tears, although it can't be normal for the team trainer to deal with many sports cases in which "a lot of good news" means "his leg is saved," either. It remains a fundamentally violent sport, but on the grisliness scale, "possible amputation" was supposed to have passed from the game circa Teddy Roosevelt and Pop Warner.
But it could have been that bad: Montgomery's diagnosis was acute compartment syndrome, which can "lead to paralysis, loss of limb or death" if pressure from muscle swelling isn't reduced immediately, before it collapses capillaries and cuts off blood flow. On the (relatively) bright side, NFL defensive end Jason Taylor had the same emergency surgery last year, and only missed two weeks. On the not so bright side: Montgomery remains hospitalized and Wazzu's trainer told the Tacoma News Tribune it could be up to a year before he even knows if he can play football again. Until then, godspeed, man.