House, M.D.‘s Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) suffered a leg injury that left him with severe pain for the rest of his life, but it wasn’t until the penultimate episode of the first season that fans learned his injury was caused by an infarction incurred while golfing. Cynical, often cruel, and yet undeniably a genius, Dr. Gregory House was the protagonist of the long-running Fox medical drama House, M.D. The show aired from 2004-2012 and followed the lives of Gregory House and his colleagues at the Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, where he frequently used unorthodox (and often illegal) methods to diagnose and cure his patients.


House was notorious around the hospital for disregarding other people and their emotions – his famous catchphrase was “everybody lies.” House himself was no exception to this rule and often skirted questions from his colleagues about much of his personal life, including what happened to him that led to his use of a cane and a Vicodin dependency. Though other House storylines remained unresolved, the story behind his leg injury was finally explained in season 1, episode 21, “Three Stories,” where it was revealed that House’s leg injury was caused by an infarction that eventually got so bad doctors suggested amputating.

House, M.D.’s Leg Injury And Backstory Explained

Hugh Laurie as Gregory House in a hospital bed with nurses and doctors working on him in House, MD

In “Three Stories,” House tells a group of medical students about three separate cases he worked on, one of which turns out to be the story of how House hurt his leg. It happened five years before the timeline of the show House, M.D. when he was out playing golf. House suffered from an infarction (an internal blockage of an artery) in his leg. Unfortunately for House, the only initial symptom was pain, and by the time he realized how serious the injury actually was, there was so much muscle and tissue death that amputation seemed like the best course of action.

However, House refused to amputate and instead underwent a risky bypass surgery with an incredibly painful recovery process. The pain during his recovery was so bad that House was placed in a medically induced coma, which meant that his then-girlfriend Stacy (Sela Ward) had control over his medical care since she was his medical proxy. Stacy ended up using her power as his proxy to have the dead tissue in his leg surgically removed.

The surgery to remove the tissue from House’s hurt leg was the reason for the crippling pain felt by the medical Sherlock Holmes throughout the show. However, the injury to House’s leg went far deeper than the physical symptoms. By ignoring his wishes and having House operated on while he was comatose, Stacy shattered the trust between them, and their relationship soured quickly after. Stacy left him, and the pain in his leg became so unbearable that he developed an addiction to Vicodin, which is the state viewers find him in when House, M.D. begins.

How House’s Leg Backstory Drove His Character

House sitting in front of a board

House hurting his leg during an infarction goes even further than ending his relationship with Stacy. It shaped his persona as a character. The loss of personal agency House experienced when Stacy made medical decisions on his behalf (as well as his constant agony) shapes House’s stubborn insistence that his approach to a medical case is the one that will cause the least suffering.

The House, M.D. protagonist always arrogantly insists that his way is the only way, and this likely stems from his desire to avoid repeating the type of situation that led to his debilitating physical and psychological condition. However, from his standpoint, it isn’t arrogance – it’s damage limitation. The interweaving of the tragic backstory of House’s leg injury and the spiky approach House takes to interactions are part of his enduring popularity as a character.

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