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High ankle sprain recovery time in NFL: How is Patrick Mahomes playing for Chiefs one week after injury?

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The knee bone is connected to the shin bone. And ligaments, and some other stuff.

Throughout the NFL season, several players have fallen victim to the high-ankle sprain. Oftentimes, these players have been taken off the field on carts, which should tell you exactly how painful the injury is.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the latest NFL player to suffer the injury, hurting his right ankle in the Chiefs’ divisional matchup against the Jaguars. While a hobbled Mahomes initially fought to stay on the field, he would enter the locker room before half and come back in the third quarter. 

The good news for Chiefs fans is that Mahomes appears to be systems-go this Sunday. The bad news for Chiefs fans is that it might not be all-systems-go for their passer.

MORE: How Joe Burrow vs. Patrick Mahomes compares to Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning & other rivalries

Here’s what to know about high-ankle sprains and how long it takes to recover from them.

What is a high-ankle sprain?

sprain occurs when ligaments in an appendage are stretched or torn. A Grade 1 sprain is when ligaments are stretched, a Grade 2 sprain happens when ligaments are stretched and partially torn, while a Grade 3 sprain occurs when ligaments are totally torn. 

high-ankle sprain is a sprain that affects the ligaments in the upper ankle; the ligaments that attach to the tibia (shin bone) and fibula, a bone between the ankle and knee. 

A Grade 1 sprain of the lower, outside part of the ankle is the most common sprain, and it occurs when the ankle rolls inward. A high-ankle sprain is a bit more rare, and takes a bit longer to recover from than your typical ankle sprain. 

Dr. Michael S. George from KSF Orthopaedic Center in Houston details the injury:

A high ankle sprain is an injury to the syndesmosis, which is the group of ligaments just above the ankle joint, that hold the tibia and fibula bones together. High ankle sprains have a different outlook than most other ankle sprains that involve the collateral ligaments of the ankle, which are the anterior talofibular ligament, the calcaneofibular ligament and the deltoid ligament. High ankle sprains are caused by rotational injuries that cause the foot to externally rotate while dorsiflexed. These injuries are common in football when a player is tackled from behind with the ball carrier’s foot on the ground and the tackler’s weight forcing the foot to externally rotate. In a syndesmosis, or high ankle sprain, the tibia and fibula bones have normal alignment on X-ray, whereas in a more severe injury, such as the one suffered by Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard, the bones separate and require surgery to realign the bones. Generally, high ankle sprains take longer to heal than other types of ankle sprains.

High-ankle sprain recovery time in NFL

NFL players typically require an injured reserve stint for a high-ankle sprain, meaning they’d have to sit out for at least four games (a month on the calendar, typically). That depends on the severity, however.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones suffered a “severe” high-ankle sprain in Week 3, missing three weeks before returning in Week 7 vs. the Bears. Jones, though, still wasn’t 100-percent healthy in his return.

Sometimes an NFL player can undergo a procedure known as a “tightrope” to hasten the recovery process for an ankle injury. Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp had the procedure and missed some time in 2022. 

Mahomes’ injury apparently isn’t as severe — or, he just has a high pain threshold. Nothing that a good tape job and some Tylenol can’t fix. 

“While he is unlikely to do any harm to his ankle by playing, he will likely still be dealing with pain in the ankle that may affect his mobility and ability to plant on the right foot,” Dr. Michael S. George from KSF Orthopaedic Center in Houston told The Sporting News. “If the Chiefs win and go on to the Super Bowl then he would most likely have enough time to make a full recovery. This injury would not be expected to cause any long-term damage to his ankle and once he has fully recovered, he should be able to return to normal mobility and performance.”

The average Joe would require around 6-to-8 weeks to recover from a high-ankle sprain.

MORE: Limp-free Patrick Mahomes ‘feeling good’ ahead of Bengals game

Patrick Mahomes’ last high-ankle sprain

This isn’t the first time that the Chiefs quarterback has dealt with a high-ankle sprain, but the good news is, it might not be as serious as the last one.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid said on Tuesday that the injury, while same in name, isn’t quite the same in pain as the high-ankle sprain Mahomes suffered in 2019. There are a few differences: The severity is one, and the ankle is different. In 2019, Mahomes suffered a high-ankle sprain in his left ankle, the lead leg in his throwing motion.

In the divisional round, Mahomes suffered a high-ankle sprain in his right leg, which is the leg he uses to push off from in his throwing motion. 

In both cases, though, Mahomes won’t miss a start. He didn’t miss any time with the ankle issue in 2019, though he did suffer a dislocated kneecap later in the season that caused him to miss a few games.

Patrick Mahomes injury update

In the Chiefs-Jaguars divisional matchup, Mahomes was landed on by Jaguars defender Arden Key on a tackle attempt, and he would get up in obvious pain.

While he would fight to stay on the field, he would leave the game in the second quarter and return after half, after undergoing X-rays and getting a fresh tape job on his injured right ankle. 

In the days that followed, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid offered a small bit of positive news, saying that Mahomes’ injury isn’t as bad as the ankle injury he suffered in 2019.

“I think this one isn’t quite as bad as that one,” Reid said. “But it’s similar. Sore, but not quite the same.”

On Monday, news broke that Mahomes himself didn’t break anything, and he said that he will play in the AFC championship game vs. the Bengals. Reid also said that he would have to see how Mahomes responds to treatment and practice, and that he’ll know more on Wednesday.

Mahomes would take the press conference and the practice field on Wednesday without any true hinderance, leading many to believe he would be able to make the start in the AFC championship game.


Credit: sportingnews.com

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