Image: Wambach of the U.S. is strapped onto a stretcher by paramedics during their international friendly soccer match in San Diego
Fred Greaves  /  Reuters
Abby Wambach of the U.S. is strapped onto a stretcher by paramedics after breaking her leg in a collision with a Brazilian player during their international friendly soccer match in San Diego on Wednesday.
updated 7/17/2008 8:18:42 PM ET 2008-07-18T00:18:42

U.S. soccer star Abby Wambach had surgery Thursday to repair a broken left leg that will keep her out of the Olympics.

The team's leading scorer had a titanium rod inserted in her lower left leg during a one-hour operation performed by Dr. Damion Valletta, an orthopedic surgeon for U.S. Soccer. She was resting comfortably and can begin full weight-bearing activities on the leg in five to six weeks.

"Everything went according to plan, there were no complications and small incisions were used to minimize the soft tissue irritability from the surgery," Valletta said. "We'll have her stay in the hospital until tomorrow, monitor the pain and control the swelling in her leg. We anticipate that she will be discharged tomorrow on crutches and will start being able to put a small amount of weight on the leg."

Wambach, 28, broke her tibia and fibula in the team's final tuneup Wednesday night against Brazil in San Diego, and is expected to be sidelined about 12 weeks. The Americans begin defense of the gold medal on Aug. 6 against Norway.

"I'm excited to watch them and cheer them on during this challenge they've been presented with," Wambach said after the game. "It's really going to take everyone coming together. I love them all so much, and appreciate so many people involved with this game and the team.

"I put my heart and soul into this game every day, but sometimes accidents happen. I've gotten so many calls already, and I just want to say how much I appreciate that."

Wambach collided with Brazilian defender Andreia Rosa in the first half of a scoreless game. Both players tumbled and Wambach immediately signaled to the sideline for help. Her leg was put in an inflatable brace and she was carted off the field.

"She's sustained a very significant injury to her bone," said Dr. Valletta. "It can sometimes take a year to return a professional player to her previous level of activity, but the expectation is that we will have an aggressive rehab program and progress her weight-bearing rapidly to minimize her time lost for competition."

On Thursday, forward Lauren Cheney replaced Wambach on the Olympic squad. The 20-year-old Cheney originally was as an alternate for the roster.

Cheney has been training with the U.S. team all year and has played in 10 games, starting three. She has three goals in 12 international matches.

"There are obviously tons of emotions going through me right now," Cheney said. "I have the deepest sorrow for Abby, but I am excited to be part of the 18 going to the Olympics.

"Abby is one of the players who took all of us young players under her wing. She has always been there to help us out and guide us. Abby is irreplaceable, but I'm ready for any role I am asked to fill, and I'll do anything I can to help the team win the gold medal. In China, we'll be playing for our country and ourselves, but also for Abby."

Wambach, one of the most experienced players on a young U.S. squad, has 13 goals and 10 assists this year. She is one goal shy of becoming the ninth female player and fifth American to reach 100 goals.

"My heart sank," forward Natasha Kai said, when seeing Wambach was hurt. "She's a big piece of a great team."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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