AURORA, Colorado – November 18, 2013 — Denver Broncos safety Rahim Moore was experiencing such severe pain in his lower left leg after returning home from Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs that he called the team's head athletic trainer in the middle of the night.
That call to Steve "Greek" Antonopulos led Moore to emergency surgery Monday morning to repair lateral compartment syndrome — a disease that can lead to amputation if not diagnosed and treated quickly.
Moore left in the second quarter and was ruled out at halftime. Interim coach Jack Del Rio said there is no timetable for Moore's return.
"It's just one of these kind of freakish things that can occur, and it did," Del Rio said. "They got the doctors right on it and he went in and had the surgery. I mean, it can be a very serious injury."
Del Rio, in his decades in the NFL as a player and coach, had never heard of compartment syndrome — an issue that commonly occurs in victims of traumatic events like car accidents, significant falls or crushing incidents. Moore did not appear to suffer any one major hit during the game, but the condition could have occurred and then worsened over a matter of hours.
"If you get significant trauma to part of the leg and it causes significant swelling, what happens is the swelling of the muscles becomes so great there is nowhere else for it to go," said Dr. Jason Stoneback
, the director of orthopedic trauma at University of Colorado Hospital. "You essentially get ischemia to the muscles in that compartment — or lack of blood flow, and the muscle then dies. You can lose function of those muscles permanently, and it can destroy nerve function, or you could even lose your leg."
Stoneback said an orthopedic surgeon would have opened Moore's lower leg and used a scalpel to open the lateral compartment — a collection of muscles, nerves and blood vesicles — to release the swelling. If doctors caught Moore's issue early enough, Moore could escape long-term muscle damage. That's where Moore's late-night call might prove fortuitous.
"If you let it go and try to tough it out, it can be really bad," Del Rio said. Del Rio told players of Moore's surgery when they gathered for their full-team meeting on Monday.
Cornerback Chris Harris knew something had to be wrong with Moore when Moore lacked explosion trying to catch Chiefs' running back Jamaal Charles on a second-quarter carry.
"I could just tell on that run — he usually would make the tackle and it'd be over, but for Jamaal Charles to be able to get that corner like that, I knew something was wrong with him," Harris said. Moore will be replaced by veteran Mike Adams, who started alongside Moore all of last season. Moore, a second-round pick in 2011, had become a vocal leader in the secondary in his third season.
- Story by Lindsay H. Jones, USA TODAY Sports
More links to Dr. Stoneback's comments on Rahim Moore's Lateral Compartment Syndrome: