The Full Story On Rudolph's Foot Injury

Dr. Mark Pascale, the team doctor for Oklahoma State football, describes how Mason Rudolph was able to play in the Sugar Bowl just a few weeks after having foot surgery.

Next to Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. the most discussed and most impacting foot injury in sports in the state of Oklahoma belongs to Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph.

After suffering a break of the fifth metatarsal in his left foot in the Cowboys loss to Baylor, Rudolph played one series against Oklahoma and then had surgery, and was back to play and play effectively in the Sugar Bowl loss to Ole Miss. In the 48-20 loss in New Orleans, Rudolph completed 18 of 31 passes for 179 yards and it should have been more as several long on-target passes were dropped. Besides desiring a better result for his team, Rudolph came out of the game in good shape. 

"There was some soreness, but it was very minimal," Rudolph told the media gathered around him in the OSU locker room. "They're not going to put me out in a situation where I'm in pain. They're going to do the best for me, and I felt very well. I felt really close to 100 percent."

The week before the Cowboys left for New Orleans an Oklahoma City sports columnist spoke to someone in the foot business, likely not a surgeon, and wrote a column casting some doubt as to whether Oklahoma State and its medical staff were being prudent with the reported surgery and treatment in attempting to prepare Rudolph to play in the Sugar Bowl.

Go Pokes and Triple Play Sports spoke to the Cowboys orthopedic surgeon on Friday of this past week. Dr. Mark Pascale is a veteran doctor at dealing with athletes and has been the team surgeon for Oklahoma State closing in on 20 years. He is a member of the renowned McBride Orthopedic Group in Oklahoma City. Their surgeons also work with the University of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma City Thunder.  

Pascale helped take us through the treatment for Rudolph, which saw him undergo surgery with a screw being used to repair the fracture on the Monday after the Bedlam game ended the regular season.

"It's one of those things that as an orthopedic surgeon and a physician that takes care of all these different athlete's injuries it is obvious that everyone want to know when they can get back and it is crushing," Pascale started. "When I told Mason that his foot was broken and that he was going to need surgery it crushed him.

"But it is one of those things that I tell every single one of them (athletes), and I tell the parents that I don't get paid by Oklahoma State to do what I do. I do it because I enjoy taking care of these athletes and that I'm looking out for their well being. I tell each of them that the coaches don't tell me when to get them ready and I don't get them ready for the coaches. I get them back when they are at the point of their rehab and their recovery and their healing that I think it is safe for them to return to activites. They have an incredible team (at Oklahoma State) that I like working with in John Stemm, Kevin Blaske, Scott Parker, and all the guys in the training room that work from 6 a.m. in the morning till 8 o'clock at night just about every single day of the football season. It is a concerted effort but it is always the kids well being first.

"They never go back (to playing) unless they are ready or that we know they can't injure themselves in any permanent way that is going to effect the overall outcome of the injury that they have," Pascale continued. "That was the case with Mason (Rudolph). He had a fracture that needed to be fixed and it was. It is not unheard of that if this thing is aligned really well and comes together nicely and you get great fixation and it is the right type of fracture, then it is like any other fracture if it is close enough to being healed that it doesn't hurt then it is okay to start doing things."

Head coach Mike Gundy told The Oklahoman that he was aware of the process and how it was being handled.

"We've had guys over the last six or eight years that have had an injury similar to his and you don't pin it, you don't go in and fix it, and then it breaks again because it doesn't calcify like it's supposed to," Gundy said to Kyle Fredrickson of The Oklahoman. "That's why they went in and repaired it."

Pascale said he consulted other sports orthopedic surgeons, both with his group at McBride and outside and found a friend at Kansas very helpful. 

"I talked to other team doctors (about Mason's injury), particularly the team doctor at Kansas, Dr. Jeff Randle, who is a tremendous guy," Pascale described. "He is the one that has had two basketball players back in less than six weeks with this same type of fracture and this same type of treatment. Like he told me, 'It can't be a chronic stress fracture, something that has been going on for years and has built up this chronic reaction.' Those are the ones when they get fixed take a lot longer.

"Mason just broke his foot and that was a different story. We fixed it and he got good enough to play and I thought he looked great. His foot was not the problem. You don't see guys coming back when they aren't ready and everybody worries about that."

Pascale said their were no promises going into the Sugar Bowl, other than Rudolph would have a chance to play if all went well from surgery to rehab. Fortunately, that is exactly how it went and, as always, the patient played an important role. 

"I knew from the get-go it was kind of a long shot," Rudolph recounted. "I was very optimistic and just did what people told me to do. I followed the agenda and they put me in a great position to play in the game and got me healthy pretty quickly."

"He was and he was a perfect patient," Pascale said of the quarterback that will be a junior heading into next season. "He was honest and I've been around long enough, I can watch them and know if they are hurting or not. The way I examined him I could tell he was really ready and I was happy for him because he really wanted to play in the game if he could. The game was on Friday and on Tuesday he came to me after practice and told me he was going to start. I thought, 'Excellent.'"

The equipment factored in too. They still used the same shoe and the orthotic device or brace that they used in the Bedlam game when Rudolph played before the surgery. 

"We had him ultimately protected because that shoe he was in was more like a cast. He couldn't stress his foot," Pascale explained. "The only way he could have got it hurt was if someone stepped on it and that would have hurt him whether he had surgery or not. Believe me we put him through a lot of drills, had him do a lot of things in the training room with nothing on his foot before we decided that he could return.

"It's just like I told his dad, 'it's in his best interest. It's not whether Mike Gundy needs him or not.' If we ever think somebody is going to get injured further or is injured in the game and we feel that player needs to sit out, I have never once had Mike (Gundy) with holding kids out. He doesn't try to play doctor and he looks out for their best interest. He told me straight up that he didn't see how Mason could play in that game. I told him, 'I'm not saying he can, I'm just saying he's got a chance.'"

The chance ended up winning in this case. It doesn't always, and fortunately for Oklahoma State athletes, they have Pascale and a training and sports medicine staff that gives them a chance. They have a head football coach that understands what has to happen if the chance doesn't work out. 

In the end it is a process that I think the athletes and their parents can trust, with or without the uninformed opinions that will also be out there.

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