“It’s completely dependent on the actual diagnosis,” said Benjamin Shaffer, a Washington-based orthopedic sports medicine specialist who’s also the team physician for the Washington Capitals. “One must be cautious about speculating about the timetable.”
Neither Griffin nor Coach Jay Gruden would speculate about the timetable for the Redskins’ third-year quarterback to return, saying simply that he had dislocated his left ankle while trying to fend off two onrushing linebackers as he ran to his right, looking to throw deep to DeSean Jackson.
The crucial unknown factor is whether Griffin simply dislocated the ankle or whether he severely damaged surrounding ligaments and possibly broke bones in the process of dislocating the ankle.
“Ankle dislocations are uncommon,” Shaffer said. “They’re often accompanied by significant leg injury and or bone injury, like a fracture.”
Under the best-case scenario, Griffin’s ankle would be immobilized in a boot for about four weeks, Shaffer said. He’d then undergo rehabilitation to regain strength and range of motion, which would likely take two months.
Kenneth Jung, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in foot and ankle surgery at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic, concurred.
“It’s pretty rare for people just to dislocate their ankle, but it’s similar to a sprain in that your foot gets out of position,” said Jung, who works with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kings and Lakers, among other pro teams. “The ligaments essentially give way usually, and then the bones dislocate.”
The ankle operates like a ball and socket, with unusually strong ligaments stabilizing the chief bones — the tibia and talus.
While an X-ray will determine if the bones are in place, an MRI exam will give doctors a clearer picture of the damage to surrounding ligaments. Jung said.
“You’re essentially treating a severe soft tissue or ligamentus injury, so you’re looking at least six to eight weeks,” Jung said. “You have to let things stabilize, work on range of motion, but before they can really start stressing the joint again you have to make sure the soft tissue has healed adequately.”
Dr. Dan Pereles, USA Rugby’s team orthopedic surgeon and medical consultant to the PGA Tour, has treated athletes with ankle dislocations and said those that don’t include a fracture of at least some bone are rare.
“If all it is is a pure ankle dislocation, which is really unusual — that’s an incredibly unusual injury for football — you pop it back in, the ligaments scar in place, and you can usually get back to running within six weeks,” Pereles said. “He might be able to get back to play within 12 weeks.”
But if Griffin also fractured or chipped a bone, surgery would likely be required.
“He’s got the advantage of having trainers 24/7, so they’ll be doing ice and [electronic stimulation], so they’ll be doing rapid rehab,” Pereles added. “But your body only heals so fast. It doesn’t matter how many trainers you have, your body is only going to heal so fast.”
Update, 9:05 p.m.:
Dr. Mark Adickes, who did Griffin’s original anterior cruciate ligament repair, said he hadn’t seen any of the results but said that “chances are nearly 100 percent that there is also a fracture,” which will not be known until the MRI exam is done.
Adickes says if there is a fracture, that’s almost better because there will be less ligament damage and then the ankle must be re-set and the bone must heal. Even so, the doctor predicts a four-month recovery time at the minimum, and that precedes rehabilitation work to restore range of motion and explosiveness.
Adickes said “I think it’s very unlikely he plays again this season.”
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