Surgery at USAFA related ???


5-Year Member
Dec 24, 2015
Are there any parents/cadets on the forum with first hand knowledge of USAFA cadet having surgery for broken bone injuries? In DS's case collar bone requiring metal plates and screws?

(1) I'm assuming/hoping quality of medical wing surgeons is top notch. Are they?

(2) Any ability for second opinions on surgery via tricare or do you need to go outside?

(3) Will they remove plates and screws after bone remodelling is complete or does tricare consider removal as elective?

(4) Assuming full range of motion is restored does presence of plates/screws impact ones ability to become a pilot? If so, how common are waivers?

(5) What's the post surgery routine? One odd thing is that he seems to have been told that they don't want him returning to his cadet quarters immediately after surgery. Their suggestion is for him to stay off academy grounds for three or four days. We're 10 hours away by plane, so need to figure out logistics.

Feel free to PM me should that be preferred for sharing information.

Great questions, and good luck to him for a speedy and full recovery.
1) they're the same group of doctors that have been doing great things for the last 16+ years for our battle wounded. Maybe not individually the same, but as a global picture. They all went to medical school, they all did orthopedic residencies (some likely at some top notch residency locations), and they're all going to be at worst "average".

2)yes, tricare allows second opinions; however, if there is another orthopod in the clinic the second opinion will be with that doc. He likely won't be referred to some civilian place. This is the same thing that would happen with Kaiser insurance or any other insurance plan, you'd still have to go to someone within that plan.

3) that will depend on the surgeon, the patient, and what happens over the healing process.

4) I don't have a definite answer, but I doubt it would be much of an issue.

5) his surgeon will be the best to answer the first part. In regards to returning to the cadet area it may be something as simple as they don't want him to have to climb up into a bunk bed, or they don't want the temptations of cadet life (the good and bad) to be a bother for a few days.
As someone who had multiple broken bones and surgeries at USNA by the ortho there... I can answer a few of these. My ortho was awesome, not sure about the ones at USAFA, but usually the orthos sent to SAs are top notch. I am sure it's the same at USAFA. Cadets are an investment and they want them healthy. Have a D1 athletic program, have to have good docs. My ortho from USNA has their own practice today. Guess who I still see today? It's not strange to be told to get away from USAFA after surgery. USNA does the same. It easier to recover the first few days away from a SA. It's not the easiest place to navigate drugged up. You have to rely on room mates and friends for food, help, and everything you do. Easier to make it to a bathroom 20' down the hall not 200', climb in and out of upper bunks, deal with pain management with another 19 year old room mate. My sponsors were top notch at USNA. They came to all my surgeries, called my parents to give updates and took me to their house. If he has great sponsors, a local cadet's family who can help or even if Mom or Dad could fly in are good options. Good luck.
Thanks for the responses. Our DS will be having surgery later this week.

As to having to stay off of Academy grounds for a few days, they have made arrangements for him to stay with a sponsor family. To date he hasn't had a sponsor family because there was a shortage when he was a C4C and he didn't really want one. However, they have arranged for him to stay with the sponsor family of a squadron mate for four days after the surgery.

In terms of plates and screws disqualifying him for flight, he has been told that it would be "easy" to get a waiver. So hopefully that will prove to be the case.

We've calmed down a bit about the whole thing since my initial post which was shortly after we learned of his accident. Again thanks for the posts and PMs.
Glad it all worked out! I am sure the sponsor family will take great care of him and he will have a bond with them going forward. I am sure as parents you are nervous and hopefully after the first drugged up Facetime call that you can see he is fine you can take a deep breath. People often ask why a SA, it's the people and community of it, prime example.
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I know this is a bit different than a collar bone, but our DD had major orthodontic surgery while at USAFA. Satisfied with the the work done. It may be a comfort to you to know that even though she now has several metal plates in her facial/jaw area, and around 30 screws, she just graduated from pilot training!
Sorry to hear your DS needed surgery. I feel for him! My DS is a C4C at USAFA and had a bad break to his collar bone 3 years ago that required a plate and screws. The plate was very visible and annoying so he had it removed 6 months later. The removal surgery was MUCH EASIER than the initial surgery to repair the break and he was very happy to have that plate out. For what it matters, he did not need a waiver to attend USAFA because of his collar bone break history.
Okay, this is dating myself but...I had two surgeries at USAFA "back in the day." One was to repair a shoulder I destroyed. I still have a screw in there; that was done in 1981. I was recently seen for pain in that shoulder. The orthopod that looked at it asked when it was done and I told him. He said: "WOW! I'm impressed, normally this type repair lasts about 20 years...yours is 35?!! Great surgeon!"

Cadets are both an investment and members of the USAF, they're taken very good care of.


(or your cadet's friends' sponsor family)