Ankle sprains can impede an athlete’s active life style. This is seen commonly in athletes involved in cutting sports like soccer, foot ball, and lacrosse.
Last week, Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall was very questionable to play on Sunday night against the 49ers. He was so questionable, that numerous sports analysts reported that he was very unlikely to play. The reason for the questionable tag was ankle pain. Marshall hurt the ankle the week previously and was forced to momentarily depart from the game. He later returned but re-aggravated it in the fourth quarter. The funny thing is, not only did Marshall surprise us all by starting the game on Sunday night; he went on to score three touchdowns and lift his team to victory. Let’s take a look at what nearly prevented him from the incredible performance.
The ankle joint consists of three bones. The ankle bone (talus), the shinbone (tibia), and the small bone of the lower leg (fibula). The tibia and fibula come together to form a socket for the top portion of the talus. The bottom of the talus rests on the heelbone (calcaneus). In addition to the bones of the ankle, there is a set of ligaments that work in tandem with these bones in order to support the lower leg and ankle. In addition to bones and ligaments there is a set of tendons that connect the lower leg muscles with the ankle and foot. Just like a machine with moving parts, if any of these parts is hindered or working incorrectly, there can be ankle pain.
While there was no specific diagnosis of Brandon Marshall’s ankle, let’s take a look at the potential causes of his ankle pain. There are many things that can cause ankle pain. Tendinitis, arthritis, gout, infection, fractures, sprains, and bruises are the most common causes of ankle pain.
We can probably rule out things such as tendinitis and arthritis. These can be very painful and occur when there is inflammation to the tendons and joints respectively. These issues typically are long lasting and take time to develop. Similarly issues like gout and infection can be ruled out because these would not be caused by an in-game injury. Gout is caused when there is a high build-up of uric acid, which leaves crystalline deposits in the joints.
That leaves us with fractures, sprains, and bruises. A fracture would require a break in one of the bones that make up the ankle. It is possible that a hairline fracture could go un-noticed if there is not a proper a battery of tests conducted. However, even a hairline fracture would probably cause a substantial amount of pain and a good bit of instability, making it hard to play. Ankle sprains involve tears of the ligaments in the ankle. It is possible that Marhsall had a very minimally sprained ankle, perhaps, just a couple of microscopic tears within the lower ligaments of the ankle. Between supporting the ankle and pain-management, Marshall could in fact play with a minimally sprained ankle. Lastly there could be simple bruising of the ankle due to in-game contact. This would cause some pain and discomfort but could be played through if managed correctly. Even the most minimal of ankle sprains or fractures are very unlikely to slip past the NFL’s strict injury reporting policies, so for my money, I’d chalk this up to just a simple bruised ankle. Whatever you believe was the cause of Marshall’s ankle pain; he played through it and performed substantially better than expected. No reason to believe that this upcoming week will be any different.
If you have any questions about your ankle pain, contact our award winning sports medicine specialists at San Diego Orthopedic Surgery clinic to receive guidance.