Expert sees a long, but full recovery possible for Tony Stewart

Tony Stewart can anticipate a slow, difficult recovery process but barring complications should eventually be able to return to NASCAR racing.

Expert sees a long, but full recovery possible for Tony Stewart
Dr. Paul D. Fuchs
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet

That’s the opinion of Dr. Paul Fuchs (pronounced FUUKES), an orthopedic spine surgeon with 20 years’ experience who currently works at the Orthopedic Specialists of SW Florida in Fort Myers, Fla.

The recovery from that itself can be three months, but in the end, if there are not any neurological problems, you usually can go back being pretty active

Dr. Paul Fuchs

Dr. Fuchs’ opinion is based only on the information that has been provided publicly from Stewart-Haas Racing and media reports from some of those who were in the group with Stewart, when he had an accident Sunday while riding a sand buggy in the Glamis Sand Dunes in the California desert. He did not treat Stewart nor have access to his medical records.

What the injury means

SHR said Stewart suffered a burst fracture of his L1 vertebra, the first vertebra in the lumbar region which bears the weight of the upper body.

“A burst fracture can potentially cause two issues. One issue is just the stability of the spine, if it bursts out, you can imagine an upper part of the spine that’s not broken and a lower part that isn’t broken and now in between there is part that is fractured. So, stability is a big issue,” Fuchs said.

“Sometimes, when it bursts, some of the bone can go back into the spinal canal and that’s when you can develop neurological issues.”

SHR said Stewart had surgery on Wednesday in a Charlotte, N.C.-area hospital. A spokesman for Stewart later clarified the surgery as a “fracture stabilizing surgery.”

The recovery 

There has been no indication from SHR that Stewart has suffered any neurological impairment, which would be good news for his recovery.

“He obviously had a massive amount of trauma for this to happen. The good news is he is moving his feet and moving his legs. If it didn’t affect nerves and it’s mainly an issue of stability, they probably put in some rods and screws during surgery,” Fuchs said.

“The recovery from that itself can be three months, but in the end, if there are not any neurological problems, you usually can go back being pretty active.”

Asked if he thought someone undergoing such a procedure could still compete in a race car if fully recovered, Fuchs said, “Oh, yeah. Could he go back and do it? I think so. A lot depends on how it heals and the extent of the injury.”

Stewart's previous injuries

Stewart’s history of trauma to his body could also affect his recovery.

He has had several serious racing accidents in his career, including a broken hip, pelvis and collarbone in an accident in 1996 in the IndyCar Series, and a pair of compound fractures in his right leg in 2013 in a sprint car race at an Iowa dirt track.

“There is always going to be some component of pain you’re going to deal with down the road. You will be reminded constantly that you had a fracture,” Fuchs said. “Not really knowing what all they had to do, I would think Tony could get back in a race car.”

No timetable for Stewart’s return was set by SHR and the organization is still in the process of selecting a driver to serve as an interim replacement for Stewart’s No. 14 Sprint Cup Series team.

shares
comments
Joe Gibbs Racing announces changes to their executive team

Previous article

Joe Gibbs Racing announces changes to their executive team

Next article

Photo retro: Tony Stewart's highs and lows

Photo retro: Tony Stewart's highs and lows
Load comments

About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing
Author Jim Utter
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021
Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption Prime

Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a chance of redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Effectively replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith...

NASCAR Cup
Feb 11, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Dec 28, 2020
Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started Prime

Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started

Chase Elliott's late charge to the 2020 NASCAR Cup title defied predictions that it would be a Kevin Harvick versus Denny Hamlin showdown. While the two veterans are showing no signs of slowing down, Elliott's triumph was a window into NASCAR's future…

NASCAR Cup
Nov 18, 2020
Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture Prime

Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture

“You can’t hear me? Hey n*****” Those fateful words uttered by Kyle Larson, spoken into his esports headset on April 12, were directed at his sim racing spotter – but instead they quickly became amplified around the world via social media, including his own Twitch stream.

NASCAR Cup
Oct 29, 2020