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Inside the Tour: Is Levi Leipheimer's fractured wrist a season ender?

Posted Jul 18 2009 10:02pm

Leviwrist Following Levi Leipheimer' s departure from the Tour de France prior to stage 13 with a twice fractured right wrist suffered in a late race crash in stage 12, the Astana rider from Santa Rosa, Ca., speculated on when he might return.

“Usually after the Tour de France, my season is almost over; I only do one or two more races,” said Leipheimer “So, I don' t know. Maybe the Tour of Missouri?"

Last year, Leipheimer didn' t compete in the Tour de France (His team wasn' t invited). Instead, Leipheimer finished second in the Tour of Spain in September to teammate Alberto Contador.

Leipheimer wasn' t scheduled to compete in the Tour of Spain this year. But he had tenatively planned to rider in the third Tour of Missouri, won by Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream).

But Leipheimer' s possible participation in the Tour of Missouri (Sept. 7-13) seems optimistic — at least from one medical opinion.

Greg Soderlund, a good friend from Sacramento, is a physician' s assistant. As a Tour de France fan, he e-mailed me a few hours after Leipheimer' s announcement he' d left the race.

The email read:

“Scaphoid or navicular fractures of the wrist can be nasty, This particular wristbone is very small but an important "hinge" bone between the forearm and the hand.  The problem with this particular fracture is the delicate blood supply to the bone.

"Following a displaced fracture of the scaphoid, there is the potential for 50 percent or more of the bone to die (avascular necrosis) which results in a non-union.

"If Levi required surgery, there is an above average chance he has a displaced fracture and the bone will not heal. Even if it does heal, the healing process can take several months. The ultimate result of a non-union with avascular necrosis is arthritis of the wrist that may ultimately require a fusion of the wrist bones to eliminate pain. Since professional cyclists put moderately severe loads on their wrists, let' s hope that Levi' s fracture heals in four or five months without complications.”

Img184newjames_bioJames Raia is reporting live from the Tour de France for James, a journalist since 1976, is co-author of Tour de France For Dummies. He owns several websites, contributes to many print and online publications. A long-distance runner for nearly 30 years, Raia also rides his bike -- to nearby coffeehouses.

Editor' s Note:Inside the Tour de France is brought to you by ( Zeal Optics and MindsetTriathlon ) Be sure to check out their web sites (above) for your chance to win a Garmin 305 from Mindset and sunglasses, t-shirts, hats and much more from Zeal.


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