Celebrity Injury Report: Johnny Depp and Reese Witherspoon

This week Johnny Depp revealed that he suffered an injury during the filming of the latest installment of the Pirates franchise: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Depp told them:

I must have done something to my back during a stunt and ended up with this bad sciatic situation. It was this horrible, grinding electricity going through me. I kept shooting; there was no choice. I’d just limp on set. It was monstrous, man — so horrible that I actually started to like it! It was bad, and I had it a good three weeks to a month. But I got used to it and kind of missed it when it was gone.

Sciatica is a symptom of a problem with the sciatic nerve, a large nerve that runs from the lower back down the back of each leg. It controls muscles in the back of your knee and lower leg and provides feeling to the back of your thigh, part of your lower leg and the sole of your foot. When you have sciatica, you have pain, weakness, numbness or tingling. It can start in the lower back and extend down your leg to your calf, foot, or even your toes. It’s usually on only one side of your body.
Sciatica is an example of a “pinched nerve”  originating in the lower spine. A nerve becomes “pinched”, technically called nerve compression, when too much pressure is applied to it from the surrounding tissues, whether that be muscle, tendon, cartilage or bone. The pressure causes the nerve to malfunction, leading to pain, numbness and tingling, or muscle weakness.

Sciatica may be due to a ruptured intervertebral disk, narrowing of the spinal canal that puts pressure on the nerve called spinal stenosis, or an injury such as a pelvic fracture. In many cases no cause can be found.

Sometimes sciatica goes away on its own. Treatment, if needed, depends on the cause of the problem. It may include exercises, medicines and surgery.

Water for Elephants star Reece Witherspoon didn’t let a leg injury interfere with her Mother’s Day plans. The 35-year-old newlywed was seen leaving church yesterday sporting a soft leg cast on her left leg. There is no official word on what the nature of the injury is, or how it came about.


The ankle joint is made up of 3 bones, ligaments and a joint capsule:

  • The tibia,sometimes called the shin bone, is the main bone of the lower leg, and makes up the inside of the ankle joint.
  • The fibula is a smaller bone that lays next to the tibia on the outside of the lower leg and makes up the outer side of the ankle joint.
  • The talus is a odd hump shaped bone of the foot that the tibia and fibula arch over to form the ankle. Those bumps that stick out from the sides of your ankles are called malleoli (singular is malleolus). They are the end parts of the tibia and fibula that surround the talus.
  • A fibrous membrane called the joint capsule, lined with a smooth layer called the synovium, encases the bony joint structure. The joint capsule contains synovial fluid produced by the synovium which allows for smooth movement of the joint surfaces.
  • The ankle joint is stabilized by 3 groups of ligaments, which are fibers that hold these bones in place.

A sprain is an injury to the ligaments (thick bands of cartilage that connect bone to bone)caused by a fall or outside force that pulls the surrounding joint beyond its normal range of movement. The degree of sprain can range from a stretched ligament to a completely torn ligament. Symptoms include pain with movement,  swelling, bruising, and joint instability.The only way to know for sure whether an injury is a fracture or a sprain is by taking an x-ray of the ankle.Mild injuries of either type are treated with RICE therapy– rest, ice, compression and elevation. More severe injuries may require immobilization or possibly surgery to restore function.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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