September 2, 2010

Serena reveals details of foot injury

In her first public comments about the mysterious injury and surgery that forced her to miss this year's U.S. Open, Serena Williams told USA TODAY on Wednesday evening that she had surgery to repair a lacerated tendon on the top of her right foot July 15 at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles a week after receiving 12 stitches in one foot and six in another when she was cut by glass at a restaurant in Munich.

The torn tendon, known as the extensor hallucis longus, was causing her right big toe to "droop," Williams said in an exclusive telephone interview from Los Angeles, where she is receiving physical therapy and resuming training.

"I came back to the United States from Germany and knew something was not right," Williams said. "My big toe was drooping, and I thought, 'My toe shouldn't be hanging like this.' I saw a specialist in New York and had an MRI, and he said I had a tendon that was torn. He said I didn't necessarily have to fix it, but I'd have a droopy toe the rest of my life. I thought it over and decided it was better to have the surgical procedure, for my career and for my life."

Williams, 28, the world's top-ranked women's tennis player, said she does not know exactly how she was injured the evening of July 7 in Munich.

"We were walking out of the restaurant and, all of a sudden, I felt pain," she said. "The pain felt like kind of a stubbed foot, like 'Ow,' and I thought, 'Wow, I stubbed my foot.' Then in 20 seconds, or a minute, I started walking again. And it hurt some more. So we looked down and there was glass all over the floor. I was standing, recovering, thinking I got a little cut and telling my nephew, who was with us, to be careful. Then my practice partner put a cellphone down to the floor so we could see, and there was a huge puddle of blood. I said, 'OMG, I don't think this is good.' "

They went to an emergency room in Munich where Williams said she had X-rays and received 18 stitches: six inside the cut on her right foot and six on top of that foot, and six stitches on the bottom of her left foot. "That one really hurt," she said, "it was right in the arch area. I don't know how it happened. Honestly, I think someone may have dropped something, which is how I got cut on both feet.

"I was planning to wear really high boots that night, and instead wore sandals. I'm trying to figure it all out, but what happened was a one-in-a-trillion chance, and unfortunately, I was the one in a trillion."

Still, Williams traveled to Brussels to play an exhibition with Kim Clijsters the next day. "I had a lot of pain in Belgium and was getting nervous because that was when I noticed my toe was drooping," Williams said. "I got a shot and then played, and at the time, my left foot hurt way more, but I thought the pain and swelling would go away and that I'd probably be all right in a week."

Then she returned to the USA, and things did not get better, she said. After seeing the specialist in New York, she flew to Los Angeles to host a housewarming party at her new home July 12. She was photographed at the party wearing high heels with a small bandage on her right foot.

Asked how she could fit her swollen, painful feet into high heels three days before surgery, Williams said, "I was bummed about wearing the Band-Aid at my party, you know me, but there were six stitches under there, so I didn't want those to show. I love heels, I'm a sucker for heels, so if I have to get the (surgical) procedure anyway, at that point, the doctor told me I needed to do it, so I took the pictures with those shoes, then wore flats the rest of the night. I couldn't have worn heels the whole night."

That photo has led some members of the news media to wonder about the veracity of Williams' story. If this bothers Williams, she didn't let on.

"Honestly, I don't read the press," she said. "I don't know what they're saying. I just look at the pictures, the photo shoots. I heard just recently that there had been doubt, but at the end of the day, I have to answer to me. It's unfortunate I had to have surgery, but I'm not lying or denying, because it is what it is."

Williams said Kenneth Jung performed the surgery on her right foot at Kerlan-Jobe. She then wore a walking boot for several weeks. "I'm out of it now," she said. "I hated that boot. I plan to use it for target practice for my serves."

She said she plans to come to the Open on Friday to watch her sister Venus play. "It will be hard to be there watching and not playing," she said, "but this whole experience will make me stronger. I plan to come back better than ever."

By Christine Brennan, USA TODAY

1 comment:

monika said...

Why didn't Serena just say this back in July?? Why did she wait so long to explain the incident? I never doubted the veracity of the incident but I was always curious as to why wouldn't she explain things. Anyways, I'm glad that she's getting better and I hope to see her play in Tokyo.