Jan 29, 2015
Prepared For The Worst

When University of Louisville guard Kevin Ware suffered a gruesome compound fracture on his right leg during the Cardinals’ Elite 8 matchup against Duke University, many watching at home and in the arena recoiled, turned their heads, or closed their eyes. But not the medical response team at Lucas Oil Stadium, which acted quickly to stabilize Ware’s injury and transport Ware to the hospital. The response team’s fast and precise actions were part of a previously rehearsed plan to handle a variety of severe injury scenarios.

In the seconds following the injury, it was quickly determined that Louisville’s Fred Hina, Head Athletic Trainer for Men’s Basketball and Director of Sports Medicine, would be the point man in administering care. (T&C talked to Hina about his work with the Louisville athletic program in this 2008 Q&A.)

With Hina working to stabilizing Ware’s leg in a splint while Ralph Reiff, Director of Sports Medicine at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, and his response team quickly covered Ware’s grisly injury with towels gathered from the Cardinals’ bench. The group transported Ware from gym floor, to backboard, to stretcher, to ambulance. Within 10 minutes of his fall, Ware was on his way to nearby Methodist Hospital where he would undergo a successful surgery.

A fracture of this magnitude, though rare in basketball, was something Reiff and his volunteer crew were ready for. They arrived at the arena four days before the Louisville-Duke contest and spent countless hours running through every possible injury scenario they could think of. Their practice paid off at the right time.

“What you saw [Sunday] was everything we’d rehearsed, every single day, leading up to the event,” Reiff, a veteran athletic trainer of three Final Fours and the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, told the Indianapolis Star.

John Dedman, Vice President of the Indiana Sports Corp., hired Reiff’s team and was on hand to witness their work on Ware.

“What Ralph and his crew did was make a really bad situation as good as it could possibly be,” Dedman said. “There was no personal reaction to how bad the injury was … just a group of people really focused on their job. It was calming to know he was in charge.”

Ware, who was walking with crutches the day following his broken leg, faces a long road of recovery. But thanks to the quick thinking and excellent care of Hina and Reiff, he was already set in the right direction.

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