Sprain severity, what’s next for the Chiefs

Sprain severity, what’s next for the Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs were hopeful immediately after advancing to next Sunday’s AFC Championship Game that his high ankle sprain would heal to the point where it would not could not only play in the conference title game but also be effective.

Mahomes said he planned to get as much treatment as he could and do whatever it took to prepare. He was thinking that an extra day of rest (the Chiefs beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional round on Saturday) would make all the difference.

But there’s no guarantee Mahomes will play, or play well if he does. There’s no guarantee backup Chad Henne will be as effective if he has to play like he did on his only possession against the Jaguars, when he led a 98-yard touchdown drive.

That means the Chiefs have a lot to figure out. How do you adjust your AFC Championship Game plan to accommodate a limping Mahomes? What is the best way to use Henne if he has to play for him?

Here are some answers about the injury itself and how the Chiefs might handle it from ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell and Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher:

What exactly is a high ankle sprain and how does it affect quarterbacks?

A high ankle sprain is also known as a syndesmosis sprain. It is an injury to the tibiofibular ligaments that join the two bones of the lower leg, the tibia and the fibula, causing an injury to the roof of the ankle joint, hence the term “high ankle”. If the ligament injury is severe enough to cause a separation or widening between the two leg bones, the injury is considered much more serious and surgery may be required.

There are several ways an athlete can sprain a high ankle, but perhaps the most common is when the foot is forced into eversion (where the foot/toes turn outward relative to the lower leg). ) beyond its normal range. Twisting creates stress on both the inside of the ankle and the “high” ankle ligaments. The most severe form of injury can also lead to a fracture.

Lower leg stability over the ankle is critical to all movements. Normally, with each step, the shin bone (tibia) advances over the main ankle bone (talus) to propel the body forward. If the supporting ligaments are injured, there is instability and, as a result, the athlete is unable to place their full weight on the ankle. Rotational movements are further compromised due to pain and instability. For a quarterback, this can present problems both when he tries to drive power through the leg, when he delivers the ball (requires ankle rotation), and any twist/twist/twist motion. In essence, he can impact any type of quarterback, but for one who relies on mobility, he can significantly impact that element of his game. — Bell

Does it get worse in the days after the injury?

You can certainly feel worse. Adrenaline is a powerful thing and often helps propel athletes through a game, despite injuries. After the game, when any bandages and shoes have been removed, the swelling may increase and so may the pain. Athletic training staff take immediate steps after the game to help mitigate these factors and aid in recovery. — Bell

Are there recent cases of quarterbacks with the same injury?

This injury is so common that no position is immune to it, be it a player who plays in the trenches or a skill position player. Quarterbacks are no different. Just this year, Mac Jones suffered a major high ankle sprain and it was said that he was considering surgery. He eventually returned to play, but seemed to struggle at times as a result of his ankle. Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts sprained his high ankle last year and underwent surgery in the offseason. He’s clearly back in top form and hasn’t had any limitations this year. Jimmy Garoppolo suffered this injury in 2020, missing two weeks and returning only to aggravate the injury and miss the rest of the season. — Bell

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Schefter: MRI confirms Mahomes high ankle sprain

Adam Schefter reports that Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes sprained his ankle during the win against the Jaguars and plans to play in the AFC Championship Game.

How worried should the Chiefs be about Mahomes’ ankle problems?

It’s certainly not ideal for this to happen with only a week to recover between games, but it’s also a serious matter, which hasn’t been reported. A mild sprain may resolve in a couple of weeks, while a moderate sprain may require more than a month to fully recover. Ultimately, a severe sprain may require surgery. The early positive news about Mahomes is encouraging, but it’s too soon to project what he’ll be able to do or not do in a week, including whether or not he’ll be able to play. Much will depend on how your ankle responds to treatment as the week progresses. He will no doubt be pushing to play, but his functional performance as the game approaches will dictate the team’s decision. — Bell

What in-game adjustments could the Chiefs make to manage the injury?

Mahomes’ creativity and ability to throw off-the-clock throws are a big part of what makes him the player he is, but the Chiefs would probably turn Mahomes into a pocket passer, like they did in the second half against the Jaguars. He didn’t throw out-of-pocket passes after returning to the game to start the second half. That’s only the second time this season that Mahomes has gone at the half without taking an out-of-pocket shot. Mahomes threw more out-of-pocket passes (113) than any other quarterback during the regular season and was tied for second with seven touchdown passes.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Mahomes rushed against Jacksonville for at least 8 yards six times in his first 12 passes, before getting hurt. He scrambled just once on a pass attempt after the injury. So this is a dramatic change to the Chiefs’ offense, and it’s unclear how well Mahomes could make it work over the course of an entire game. — Professor

How much does the Chiefs’ offense change with a committed Mahomes?

Mahomes’ run, or at least the threat of it, is no small part of the Chiefs’ offense. He was their second leading rusher during the regular season with 358 yards. He also rushed for four touchdowns and 25 first downs. All of that goes away if he’s as limited in terms of mobility as he was in the second half against the Jaguars. On occasion, opponents have used a spy against Mahomes to remove the current threat from him. There’s no need to do that if he’s limping.

That defender can be used in coverage or as an extra running back, which raises another point: Can Mahomes move well enough to prevent the run? That would appear to be a baseline for the Chiefs to determine if he could play in the AFC Championship Game. If he isn’t mobile enough to protect himself, he shouldn’t and probably wouldn’t play. — Professor

If Mahomes’ injury worsens, what would change with Chad Henne under center?

The passing game was mostly quick, short throws for the one series Henne filled in for Mahomes against Jacksonville. Henne passed for 23 yards on seven attempts, less than 3.3 yards per attempt. For comparison, Mahomes was second in the league during the regular season with 8.1 yards, while the league average was 7.1 yards.

It’s a small showing for Henne against the Jaguars, but it’s still a reasonable expectation for him in the AFC Championship Game, if he has to play. The Chiefs were also more even on Henne’s 12-play drive, running the ball on five of the plays. It’s always risky to predict that coach Andy Reid will order more running plays, but if the situation ever called for it, this would be the one. — Professor

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