Concussions, ACL tears, and knee cartilage damage are among the common injuries the UW Medicine sports medicine and head physician of University of Washington’s football team diagnoses and treats. Recently, Dr. Kimberly Harmon brought her sports medicine expertise to help diagnose an injured gorilla at Woodland Park Zoo.
The zoo called in Harmon and other human and animal medical specialists for a diagnostic examination on Jumoke (juh-MOH-kee), a 32-year-old, female gorilla who was born and raised at the zoo. The 275-pound western lowland gorilla sustained leg wounds during a scuffle off exhibit in the sleeping dens with a young female gorilla in her group named Uzumma.
Martin Ramirez, Woodland Park Zoo’s mammal curator, said gorillas are generally calm animals, but scuffles are not uncommon, especially younger gorillas challenging older gorillas. “Uzumma, who turns 10 years old this week, initiated the interaction with Jumoke. It was a display of natural adolescent behavior like a human teenager acting out,” said Ramirez.
While Jumoke has been going outdoors daily in the public exhibit, the gorilla keepers had observed progressive mobility issues. “Jumoke was having difficulty bearing weight on her right leg. Since animal patients can’t talk and tell their veterinarians where it hurts or describe the severity of the pain, we needed to intervene on her behalf by calling in a team of specialists to examine her for a bone or soft-tissue injury,” said Dr. Darin Collins, Woodland Park Zoo’s director of animal health. “Who better to call than the head physician of one of the nation’s top ranked football programs? We were very fortunate she used her expertise for Jumoke’s welfare.”
Jumoke was examined at the zoo’s veterinary hospital. Radiographs diagnosed a fracture of the tibia, one of two bones in the lower leg. Harmon was joined by Dr. Albert Gee, a sports orthopedic surgeon at UW Medicine, and Dr. Alex Aguila from the Animal Surgical Clinic of Seattle. The bone fracture is already showing signs of healing; no surgical fracture repair will be attempted at this time. The patient will receive antibiotic and pain medications, and have limited activity. “This type of fracture in a human is typical of a blunt force impact and should heal if a bone infection does not complicate the healing,” said Dr. Kimberly Harmon.
The gorilla also will undergo physical rehabilitation therapy to help her fully recover from her injury. Non-weight bearing exercises that maintain the normal range of motion of the leg joints will return the gorilla to normal function.
Fall and winter zoo hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily. For more information or to become a zoo member, visit www.zoo.org or call 206.548.2500.