An ESPN documentary on Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith’s remarkable recovery from his gruesome leg injury in 2018 premiered Friday on ESPN, providing an inside look at the injury that almost cost him his life.
Smith’s leg was pinned awkwardly underneath him when he went down during their game against the Houston Texans in 2018. He suffered a compound fracture with the bone breaking the skin and was carted off the field and moved almost instantly to a local hospital.
His leg later became infected, and he had to undergo 17 surgeries on it. Doctors told him that the injury was no longer considered a sports injury, but more like a military injury — as if he had been impacted by an explosion to his leg.
“So Alex has a flesh-eating bacteria that’s eating away at his leg,” his wife, Elizabeth, told ESPN. “He’s septic and, essentially, dying. We’re being inundated with medical language. Family, friends, everybody is on high emotion.”
At one point in the hospital, Smith said in the documentary, doctors told him that “maybe cutting off your leg is the best thing.”
Yet while he was sitting in the hospital recovering after doctors had the infection under control, Smith turned to Elizabeth and said something that shocked her.
“It’s gonna be OK. Do you know how many people would love to trade positions with me?” Smith asked her.
Gruesome injury photos, rehab footage
The documentary doesn’t shy away from the horrific infections and procedures that Smith underwent.
ESPN showed new photos of Smith’s leg as it progressed along in the hospital, providing new images of the infection at its worst points — and what was left of his leg after doctors cut away the infected portions.
They were not for the faint of heart.
Seeing what he endured, though, made his recovery that much more impressive.
Smith traveled to a military facility in San Antonio several times, after receiving special clearance, to start rehabbing his leg. From there, he slowly progressed from the point of wearing a bulky exterior metal brace to the point where he can walk and run again.
The former No. 1 overall pick is still working to make a comeback in the NFL. While he will turn 36 next week, and still isn’t fully recovered, seeing him make it back out onto the field would be one of the better stories in NFL history.
Either way, Smith said he’s just happy to be back at home with his family.
“I’m feeling pretty good about the rest of my life, regardless of what happens with football,” Smith said in the documentary.
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