Malaysian cyclist Azizulhasni Awang competed in the London Olympics earlier this year, but the wheels almost came off on his lifelong dream months earlier when a giant splinter impaled him in the calf during a race.
The injury happened in February, 2011, during a Cycling World Cup event in Manchester, England, when Awang crashed with another cyclist during the final of the keirin event, a race in which track cyclists sprint for victory following a speed-controlled start behind a motorized or non-motorized pacer.
In the collision, a splinter nearly eight inches long pierced through Awang's leg and put the career of the man known as "the Pocket Rocket" at risk of implosion.
Awang's injury and subsequent recovery is featured in this week's episode of "I Was Impaled," a documentary series focusing on bizarre injuries that airs Saturday nights on Discovery Fit & Health.
Incredibly, Awang not only finished the race with the splinter stuck in his leg, he won. But it put him at risk of losing his shot at Olympic glory, according to Dr. Dilraj Sandher.
"As the muscles being used to pedal the cycle and the splinter inside is moving up and down, it will just keep splitting the muscle group and the two groups of muscles will just contract and have a gap in between," Dr. Sandhar told the show.
Luck turned out to be on Awang's side. The splinter broke off into two parts that were moving separately in conjunction with different muscles and, therefore, not splitting the muscles apart.
There was another risk though. The muscles of the lower legs are arranged as four vertical compartments, each with its own blood supply and each with different functions.
Sandhar's concern was that the splinter may have severed blood vessels in the leg, which would cause "compartment syndrome," a condition where nerves, blood vessels and muscle get compressed in a closed space preventing oxygenation in the body. This can lead to tissue and muscle death, which would prevent Awang's muscles from recovering after exertion.
The splinter avoided injuring the blood vessel and Awang was able to recover in time for the Olympics this past summer, where he came in 8th in the keirin.
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