The Kansas City Chiefs ended Saturday’s divisional round playoff game on a high note, winning over the Jacksonville Jaguars by a score of 27-20. However, it seems Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes suffered a different kind of high during the game: a high ankle sprain. According to ESPN, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) on Sunday confirmed this type of injury in Mahomes’ right ankle. Now, the “high” in a high ankle sprain has nothing to do with a person’s mental state, even though his injury forced Mahomes out of yesterday’s game, it left Chiefs fans feeling pretty low . No, the “high” referred to where the injury occurred on his ankle. It also gave you an idea of the actions that caused the injury and how long recovery might take.
High ankle sprains are less common than low ankle sprains, which is why low ankle sprains are often called common ankle sprains. High ankle sprains comprise about 14% of all ankle sprains, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery website. To understand the difference between going high and going low, so to speak, we need to go over some ankle anatomy.
But first, let’s explain what a sprain is. A sprain is a stretching or tearing of a ligament. Ligaments are the fibrous tissues that connect one bone to another. You can thank ligaments that your joints aren’t all jiggly and unstable when you twerk. The picture below shows the bones and ligaments of your foot and ankle, assuming you are a human and not a centipede:
The two bones that make up your lower leg are your larger tibia and smaller fibula. This matching pair of bones sits on top of the highest bone of your foot. These three bones together form your ankle joint. Several ligaments connect these bones together to make your ankle more stable. The names of these ligaments give clues as to what they attach to and where they are located. For example, your anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) connects your fibula and your talus. Anterior means front and back, which is why when you say you spent all of Saturday night getting your posterior spanked, you’re referring to what happened to your bottom.
A low ankle sprain involves the ligaments lower down on your ankle, usually the ATFL. These usually happen when you’re on a roll, so to speak. It often happens when your ankle rolls in for what’s called an inversion injury, such as when you accidentally step on a Groot figure you left on the kitchen floor. Less commonly, you can suffer a low ankle sprain when your ankle rolls in the opposite direction, out for a so-called escape injury.
In contrast, a high ankle sprain is a stretching or tearing of the ligaments “higher” up on your ankle that connect your two lower leg bones: your tibia and fibula. One of these ligaments is the anterior inferior tibiofibular ligament which connects the faces of the tibia and fibula. Another is the posterior inferior tibiofibular ligament, which connects the backs of these two bones. The third part is the ligament that is not really called but instead called the interosseous membrane, because it sits in the space between the tibia and fibula and helps to hold them together.
Given the anatomy, the mechanism by which high ankle sprains occur is different. They can occur when your leg is bent upwards and turned in or out. In other words, when your foot is dorsiflexed, meaning your foot is bending toward your shin, something is causing your foot to rotate in one direction or the other. In this case, one direction does not refer to the musical group but what happens when your foot is turned to the right or left. This can happen when you cut while running, jumping or falling, for example when playing sports such as football, soccer, lacrosse, and basketball or running up a hill so that the person who you’re hooked up with after your last Tinder date The year won’t see you.
The location of the high ankle sprain may mean that the symptoms are not as severe as the damage, causing you to underestimate your injury. You might say, “This feels okay,” soon after the injury and not have as much pain or see as much swelling or bruising. It might not be until you try to do things like run, cut and turn that you realize, “Oh, something’s really not right.”
Such injuries are usually only necessary if a ligament is completely torn. Usually, the initial treatment is RICE and less weight for two weeks. In this case, RICE does not refer to what you put in your sushi. It is the acronym for Rest, Icing, Compression, and Elevation. Rest means keeping weight off the ankle and foot. Icing means putting ice in for 15 minutes at a time, once every few hours. Compression means wrapping the area with an elastic bandage to keep the swelling down. Of course, don’t rub it so tight that it feels like your leg will fall off your leg. That would be counter-productive. Finally, elevation means keeping your ankle above your core. All of these will help reduce the swelling and pain in your ankle and promote healing.
After this initial period, the next step is to restore the strength and range of motion of the ankle through physical therapy and various exercises. Of course, every injury and every person is different, but you can usually expect to return to sports in about six to 12 weeks after the injury, assuming everything goes well. Even after you return, it can help to wear an ankle brace while playing sports for a while to protect the ankle from re-injury. Sometimes symptoms can last as long as six months.
Of course, if you’re a Chiefs fan, you can say, “But the AFC Championship game is in a week.” Obviously, the stakes are a little different from West Side’s afternoon adult league flag football game against the team captained by the guy who called you “doggo” at Happy Hour. So the Kansas City staff’s trainers might try to push the timeline earlier, much earlier, depending on how much Mahomes can handle. This means that Mahomes will not be 100% confirmed for next Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Ideally, you want to have full range of motion and full strength in the ankle before returning. You’ll want to make sure your balance, coordination and foresight are back to normal too. Proprioception is the ability to know where different parts of your body are in space at a given time, which is why you don’t regularly slap yourself in the face.
The team’s coaches will have to make adjustments to such expectations if Mahomes is to take the field next Sunday in GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium or whatever the Chiefs’ home field is called these days. Remember that Mahomes’ situation is probably a little different than any situations you might face. So do not rush to return to sports in such a way after such an injury. Otherwise, you may be saying, “Hello” to more low soon enough.