Alex Smith didn’t know if he would ever walk again, much less play football. A leg injury left the quarterback fighting for his life. Now, Smith is leading the Washington Football Team into the playoffs against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Not everyone gets to make a comeback. Smith described his grueling recovery process and went into details about his brutal leg injury. Let’s just say the details are graphic and horrific.
“Basically, it’s like a skin quilt,” Smith told Men’s Health of his leg now. “When they took my quad from my left leg to cover the bone in my right, they took skin with it, so in the middle of my shin I have a chunk of skin from my left thigh and, around that, a patchwork of skin grafts. And there are definitely some crevices where it just doesn’t all line up perfectly.”
Smith almost obliterated his leg in 2018 during a matchup against the Houston Texans. Texans’ J.J. Watt and Kareem Jackson sacked Smith, and he fell at an awkward angle. The quarterback experienced a compound fracture that mangled the inside of his leg. Doctors didn’t think an injury like that was possible on a football field. They compared it to what a soldier might experience on the battlefield.
It Took Months for Alex Smith to Recover
Smith’s injury was compounded by the fact he got an infection. He developed necrotizing fasciitis or flesh-eating bacteria. His leg turned black and septic. A specialist Johnny Owens encouraged the hospital to keep the leg. Doctors considered amputating the leg to save his life. Doctors removed Smith’s muscle tissue and replaced it with muscle from his quad.
In total, Smith experienced 17 surgeries and nearly a year of physical therapy.
“It was humbling and crazy and it really put my injury into perspective,” Smith said. “But at the same time, it gave me such hope, because Johnny and the doctors and PTs at CFI had seen injuries like this so many times before. To them, the idea of me playing again wasn’t a question. It was without a doubt, when to everyone else, it was crazy.”
Now the quarterback is back on the field ready to try to lead his team to a Super Bowl.