The arrival of Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Lloyd fulfills a desperate need the Rams have for more playmakers. In addition, Mark Clayton is eligible to come off the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. Both looked good in practice Wednesday. But all of that hoopla and excitement was over-shadowed by the absence of quarterback Sam Bradford from both Wednesday’s and Thursday’s practice session.
Bradford’s left ankle is currently in a boot, changing his normal walking motion, and he also had a noticeable limp, which is understandable. While sprained ankles are common in all sports, the high-ankle sprain is becoming more and more the popular lower leg injury over the past several years.
As an NFL front-office executive, I hated hearing the medical staff on Monday morning or getting the call when on the road, that a player has sustained a high-ankle sprain, because that meant in my mind from past experiences, time away from the game, despite the toughness and the player’s ability to play and tolerate pain.
When I asked a few of my medical sources the difference between a normal or common ankle sprain vs. the high-ankle sprain I got some interesting feedback. My sources (doctors, surgeons and internists) from around the country at the major college level and in private practice, all agree that the high-ankle sprain takes longer than the common ankle sprain to heal. The ligaments that stabilize the ankle are injured differently in a common vs. a high-ankle sprain.
As it was explained, to me the three bones in the lower leg act together to form the ankle joint (tibia, talus and fibula). When jogging, these bones work together to sustain five times the person’s body weight. When an athlete has a common ankle sprain, it involves the ligaments on the outside of the ankle called anterior talofibular ligament. Once the swelling dissipates, athletes can play with proper taping of the ankle or wear a brace so the ankle can’t roll to the outside. They are able to return to action within 4-to-7 days.
The high-ankle sprain involves different ligaments called the syndesmosis. These ligaments are located above the ankle joint and stretch up the leg and lay between the tibia and fibula that holds the two bones together. These two bones handle the lower leg shock and pounding when players run, jump-cut or maintain heavy activities for a long period of time. When this ligament is sprained, even the least amount of pressure, or taking a step is extremely painful. While the common ankle injury occurs from the ankle rolling, the high-ankle sprain is the act of a forceful twisting motion of the lower leg.
Treatments are entirely different. For the common sprain, the swelling is visible, and once the swelling is gone, the athlete can resume play and do so with a certain level of pain. With the high sprain, there is not as much swelling or bruising and the ankle looks normal. According to my medical sources, there is no bracing or taping that helps relieve the pain or prevent this injury from occurring. The key to a quick return is rest, ice often, compression with wraps and elevation.
Now, where all of these gentlemen disagreed was the time of return to action. A few said depending on the severalty of the high ankle sprain, 2-to-3 weeks, and the other said 4-to-6 weeks. Where they did agree was that the symptoms may last up to 7-to-8 months, depending on the person and the environment that they play in (weather).
When Bradford was asked how the ankle feels, he said, “It feels good. Obviously it feels better than it did on Sunday and even on Monday when I woke up. Just going to continue to treat it and hopefully it will be ready to go later this week.”
A native of Oklahoma City, just a few hours north of Dallas, he was asked about family members driving down to watch him play against the Cowboys.
“I’m doing everything I can to play,” he said. “Whether we were playing in Dallas or in Alaska, I’m going to do everything I can to play every Sunday. But like you said, I’ve had this Dallas game circled for a while now knowing that it is about as close to home as I get. It’d mean a lot for me to play down there, so hopefully I’ll be ready.”
The health of Bradford is what all have feared since the beginning of the 2011 season because pass protection has been an issue. The Rams currently have given up 22 sacks and are facing a high-pressured Dallas Cowboys defense Sunday.
The focus Sunday will be stopping the pass rush, red-zone production and creating takeaways on defense, but today it is all about getting Bradford ready to compete. While coach Steve Spagnuolo and the training staff would never put the franchise in harm’s way, they have to protect Bradford from himself.
“I’m not going to get into percentages,” he said, when asked what percentage of being totally healthy he would have to be to play. “I don’t think you can get into percentages. Like I said earlier, there’s certain things that I need to be able to do and if I can do those things, then I’ll play.”
While Bradford is extremely competitive, tough and has the passion to play this game at a high level, he will play it smart when it comes to his health and the ability to help his team win. This is why the Rams pay A.J. Feeley to gap-stop in emergency situations.