John Force medical update 2007-10-02

FORCE WILL STAY PUT AFTER CONSULTING WITH ORTHOPEDIC SPECIALISTS 14-Time Champ Scraps Plans to Attend TORCO Nationals at Richmond DALLAS, Texas -- John Force got a reality check Tuesday and the 14-time NHRA Funny Car Champion found he didn't...

FORCE WILL STAY PUT AFTER CONSULTING WITH ORTHOPEDIC SPECIALISTS
14-Time Champ Scraps Plans to Attend TORCO Nationals at Richmond

DALLAS, Texas -- John Force got a reality check Tuesday and the 14-time NHRA Funny Car Champion found he didn't have a leg to stand on.

Faced with the knowledge that he can't put weight on a badly broken left ankle for at least 60 days and the realization that his severely damaged right knee and foot simply won't hold him up, Force finally acquiesced to the wishes of orthopedic surgeons treating him at Baylor University Medical Center.

The upshot is that the injured icon will remain at Baylor for an undermined amount of time under the supervision of trauma specialist Dr. Michael Foreman, orthopedic traumatologist Dr. Alan Jones and orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Zehr and immediately will embark on a more intense physical therapy program.

Although, with assistance, he has been up on his feet since the Sept. 23rd accident at the Texas Motorplex that left him seriously injured for the first time in his 30-year career, reports that the 125-time tour winner has been walking have been greatly exaggerated.

His physical activity to date has consisted primarily of doing pull-ups with his right arm and raising and lowering his legs -- all from his hospital bed, which is why, on Tuesday, drag racing's biggest star acknowledged that while he is extremely motivated to get back in his race car as quickly as possible, he finally understands that he cannot accelerate the healing process.

"It is what it is," Force said. "I know I said I was going to drive at Richmond (in this week's second annual TORCO Racing Fuels Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park) and that I was going to drive at Las Vegas. That's what I wanted to do, but the truth is I'm beat up pretty bad. I can't do anything for myself right now plus my blood count is down.

"They want me to eat, but nothing tastes right and they want me to walk on my own, which I can't do because my right leg is so bad."

Force's right leg initially was weakened by childhood polio and then aggravated by an accident in 1989. In the crash, the same knee was deeply lacerated, affecting the tendons and ligaments.

"I've had to rely on my daughter Ashley and my son-in-law, Robert Hight, to do everything for me -- and I mean everything," Force said. "I got two bad hands and two bad legs, so it didn't make any sense to do a couple days of therapy here, a couple more in Indy and a couple more in California.

"My doctors here are right up there with the best in the world for these kinds of injuries. They worked with Kenny Brack and they've handled PBR bull riders when they've been hurt. So, my new game plan is to stay here to do the physical therapy they want."

That decision countermands Force's earlier plan to travel to Indianapolis this week and then on to Richmond to provide morale support for Hight, who presently is second in POWERade points behind only Tony Pedregon.

Instead, he will remain in Texas under the care of a trauma team that has had considerable experience with injuries like those suffered by the 14-time Auto Racing All-American when his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang literally broke in half after a tire failure.

In fact, Dr. Jones headed the team that put IndyCar driver Kenny Brack back together after he crashed heavily in a 2003 IRL race at Texas Motor Speedway. That was a determining factor in Force's decision to stay put although he still is determined to be in Las Vegas for the Halloween weekend ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals.

"I'd like to think that I'm Superman, but I'm not," Force said. "I know I have to get stronger. I'm down probably 10 pounds (since the crash), but for years whenever I lost weight I did it the wrong way. Instead of exercising it off, I just quit eating. Well, lying here in the hospital, I realized how weak I am. I know I've got build myself back up if I'm going to continue to race. So that's what I'm going to do."

Relying on his family for support, Force said his nephew, Brian Force, will fly to Dallas to take over the heavy lifting from Hight, who has done yeoman duty as Force's arms and legs during recovery.

Enhancements to Hight's Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang should be completed Wednesday. That will make it possible for the seven-time tour winner to compete this week -- but not to test.

Work still is being done at McKinney Corporation on Ashley's Castrol GTX Ford and on a third Mustang for rookie-to-be Mike Neff. Force's car, which was to be the second to receive the latest upgrade, was pulled out of line when it became apparent that the 1996 Driver of the Year would be unable to compete this week.

Force said Tuesday that Ashley's participation in the TORCO Nationals won't even be considered if improvements to her car are not completed by Thursday.

In addition to his leg injuries, Force has broken bones in the fingers on his right hand and a severely dislocated left wrist. He also has skin grafts on his injured fingers. Of some additional concern is the fact that his white blood count is low, a situation that ultimately might necessitate a blood transfusion.

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Kenny Brack , Alan Jones , Robert Hight , Mike Neff