With Rory spraining his ankle just a handful of days before he was set to start the defense of his 2014 Open Championship title, we thought it might be interesting to look a bit more closely at what exactly happens at the ankle level, and what his physiotherapy team will be working towards in his return to sport.
What is a lateral ankle sprain?
Ankle sprains are one of, if not the most common injury in sport. Lateral ankle sprains (those involving the outside ligaments of the ankle) make up the large majority. These sprains are usually the result of turning over on your ankle and bringing the ligaments that provide lateral support past their limit. These ligaments are the anterior talo-fibular ligament (ATFL), calcaneo-fibular ligament (CFL) and posterior talo-fibular ligament (PTFL). The ATFL is the ligament most commonly involved, and that which Rory tweeted he had totally ruptured.
Rehabilitation of an ankle sprain is dependent on the severity of the sprain, but can take upwards of 12-16 weeks. Rehab will consist of acute management of the inflammation and pain, while maintaining strength and fitness at the uninjured sites, followed by recovering range of motion, strength, and proprioception (balance sense at the joint) at the ankle as appropriate. Rehabilitation aimed at the above consisting of education and supervised exercise has been shown to improve time to full recovery and recurrence rates for those with lateral ankle sprains (examples here, here and here). Returning to sport or some activities before your rehabilitation is complete and the tissue is ready can lead to chronicity or recurrence of injury.
What about Rory?
So given the above, chances that Rory will teeing off at the Old Course at St. Andrews next week are pretty slim, and even if he does he will be nowhere near 100%. Although he will have a dedicated rehab team with him throughout the course of his recovery, his tissues will still heal just like yours and mine, needing time to undergo repair and restructuring under stress. Here’s hoping his rehab goes well though and he’s out crushing shots again soon enough!