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During a November 2018 match against the Houston Texans, Alex Smith suffered a spiral and compound fracture to his tibia and fibula in his right leg after he was tackled by the duo of Kareem Jackson and J.J Watt. “I remember a really funny feeling in my leg,” Smith recalled in a 2021 interview with GQ. “It wasn’t like I knew it was broken immediately. It went fuzzy. That’s what it felt like. And then it really was the visual when I looked down and could see, you know, that my leg obviously wasn’t straight anymore that told me that I had broken it.”
Smith subsequently underwent surgery but soon faced another major concern. Due to his injury being an open wound, Smith suffered an infection and was subsequently diagnosed with sepsis, a condition that sometimes arises when the body tries to fight off infections. Things, however, seemingly took a turn for the worse when Smith learned he could lose his leg. “[The] next thing I remember is waking up several weeks later faced with the decision of amputation or limb salvage at that point,” he told ESPN. The NFL star, however, chose to save his leg, opting instead for multiple surgeries. In the end, Smith underwent 17 surgeries over the course of several months. But while this injury posed to end his NFL career, Smith did not give up without a fight.