UCF QB McKenzie Milton details how close he was to losing his leg

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A trainer from South Florida attends to Central Florida quarterback McKenzie Milton after he went down with a knee injury on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. (AP)
A trainer from South Florida attends to Central Florida quarterback McKenzie Milton after he went down with a knee injury on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. (AP)

McKenzie Milton hopes to return to the football field in 2020. That much we already know.

But before Thursday, Milton, the star UCF quarterback, has never gone into a ton of detail about the injury he suffered against South Florida late last season. But he detailed the entire ordeal to ESPN’s Andrea Adelson, and revealed just how serious of a situation he endured — and continues to endure — and how close he was to losing his leg.

We knew Milton dislocated his knee and suffered nerve damage when he was tackled low on a run around the right side. Once Milton was transported to the locker room, doctors discovered that he had no pulse in his leg. From there, he was rushed to the hospital and a CAT scan revealed that Milton had “a torn popliteal artery,” prompting emergency surgery to restore blood flow to the leg.

To fix the issue, Milton said doctors actually had to take a vein from his other leg to “make a new artery” in his injured leg:

I had a huge scar from my left knee to my upper groin in my left side, which is my good side. They had to take the saphenous vein out of my left leg and make a new artery in my right leg to restore blood flow to save the leg, which is amazing. I also had two big cuts on each side of my right leg — they were open with tubes running in and out with blood just coming out. They had to keep those open because, if not, your leg would puff up and basically explode.

When Milton awoke from the surgery, he said he had to check to make sure he didn’t lose his leg.

“My doctors tell me 0.001 percent of orthopedic injuries are like mine, and this type of injury is typically from motorcycle or car accidents,” Milton said.

Milton still dealing with nerve damage

Not only did Milton tear an artery, he suffered severe nerve damage. He is still dealing with the lingering effects of the nerve “stretching.” But, over time, there is optimism he will have “complete healing” with the nerve, he said. How long it will take is unknown.

The nerve coming back, it feels like your foot's asleep and your leg's asleep, and when it comes back — I don't know how to describe it — it's kind of like fire in your leg. It hurts. The nerve pain does hurt. I feel it on occasion, but I'm used to it now. I'm feeling it come back, and that's a good thing. There's still a little numbness, like the lower leg. I can feel it when I touch it, but it feels dull. You know when your hand falls asleep and you touch it? That's what it feels like. My toes, I can wiggle them but not all the way. It's getting better.

Once Milton healed enough from his first surgery, he underwent a knee construction surgery. Miraculously, it revealed that the ACL and both meniscuses in the knee were “perfect.” He had only torn his LCL and PCL.

Milton said he doesn’t want to look too far ahead. His recovery is about setting attainable goals and checking them off as time goes on with the ultimate goal of returning to the field for the Knights.

UCF preparing for 2019 season without Milton

Milton was one of the best quarterbacks in college football in 2017 and 2018 as the Knights won 25 straight games, including a perfect 13-0 campaign in 2017.

Without Milton, UCF returns Darriel Mack Jr., who filled in last year after Milton’s injury, and Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush. Milton has been in the meeting room in an effort to help the team as much as he can.

Coming out of spring practice, UCF coach Josh Heupel said the two will continue to compete for the starting role into fall camp.

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