When Louisville basketball player Kevin Ware broke his leg during last month's Elite Eight game against Duke, players on the bench and viewers across the country shuddered at the sight.
Omaha native Jose Castillo didn't. The construction worker went through the same injury last August.
“There was no pain at all, but I knew (it) was broken,” he said of his own experience.
According to his doctor, he can probably thank adrenaline.
Castillo, 32, suffered the same break as Ware – fracturing his tibia (shin bone) completely – during an Omaha Latino Soccer League game.
While pain didn't set in right away, the sight and feel of the injury made it more real.
“I grabbed my leg, and I could feel my leg was broken,” Castillo said. Kevin Ware echoed this in post-surgery interviews, saying the pain wasn't immediate but looking at the injury didn't help.
“Pain is the body's way of trying ... to stabilize the injury,” said Dr. Darren Keiser, Castillo's orthopedic surgeon, “Initially adrenaline may mask some of the pain, but it will set in soon after.”
Dr. Keiser works with Methodist Physicians Clinic HealthWest Orthopedics. He said this particular injury is the most common long-bone injury, and those who play contact sports are fairly susceptible.
Dr. Keiser performed surgery within 24 hours of Castillo's injury. He placed a rod inside the tibia bone, setting the fracture. The rod was secured above and below the break, with screws holding it all together. Patients can choose to have the hardware removed once the injury heals, but most just leave it in.
“Jose was fortunate in that the bone did not protrude from the skin (like Ware), but it was close to that,” said Dr. Keiser.
Castillo wore a splint and used crutches for about six weeks after surgery. He took nearly three months off work due to the incident.
According to Castillo, the physical therapy portion of healing hurt worse than the actual injury. He had to bend, flex and work out muscles that hadn't been used in a while.
Dr. Keiser says evidence of healing, like being able to put more body weight on the leg, can be seen as soon as two to three months after this type of injury. Reaching pre-injury performance might take closer to 12.
Castillo went back to work in November and wasn't shy in noting that his team went on to win the championship in their league.
He continues to play soccer, crediting Dr. Keiser's work.
“I can't even describe how happy I am about the job he did ... it's like I have a brand new leg.”