One of the most commonly injured areas of the anatomy is the ankle. It is the first joint along the kinetic chain to absorb the impact of running, walking and cutting. The ankle is considered a synovial hinge joint, meaning that it’s durable enough to bend in every direction. Despite it’s extreme mobility, the tendons holding the ankle together make it stable enough to maintain a neutral position when standing, walking and running.
Any time a sport involves running, especially when quick direction changes are required, athletes can be at risk of ankle injuries. Basketball and soccer players tend to be at the highest risk for ankle injuries due to the lateral movement, quick direction changes and repetitive jumping. Football, on the more aggressive side of contact sports, adds its own risk to ankle injuries. Three hundred pound men rolling onto each other’s legs can force the ankle to bend in ways not conducive to healthy joints. This is what happened to Chris Long.
In the third quarter of the Rams’ loss to the Vikings, Long’s teammate, 313 pound defensive tackle Kendall Langford, was blocked into him. It appeared as though Langford rolled onto Long’s ankle, bringing Long to the ground. Long was able to get off the field under his own weight, but never returned to the game. In the days following the injury, coach Jeff Fisher announced that Long would undergo surgery, but didn’t elaborate on the specifics of his injury. Long was placed on the injured reserve with a designation to return later this year. In doing so, Long must miss a minimum of 8 weeks. This allows the Rams to open up a roster spot to fill Long’s void.
The Rams will miss Long. He’s played in 95 straight NFL games without missing a single one – the second longest active streak behind Jared Allen. With Long holding down the defensive end position, the Rams allowed the 9th fewest rushing yards per game last season. They were also 3rd in the league in sacks.
Long having surgery on Thursday all but confirmed that his ankle was broken. Long walked off the field under his own power, but ankle fractures come in many different shapes and sizes, and often times a player will be able to place weight upon the fractured joint without much problem. The fact that the Rams opted for surgery suggests that they were worried about the injury destabilizing his ankle.
Often times, ankle surgery involves making an incision to see the fracture, returning all bones to their correct positions, and then bracing them with a plates and/or screws. Long’s official diagnosis and surgical procedure has yet to be released by the team.
Average recovery and rehabilitation from ankle surgery can take up to a year, in the most severe cases. Professional athletes tend to beat those recovery times a bit due to state of the art medical facilities, access to the most experienced surgeons in the business, and the fact that they’re generally at the pinnacle of health.
Look for Long to return quickly after his mandatory 8-week absence is over, though don’t expect it to be at day 57. He will most likely take a few weeks to get his full ‘push’ back. While Long will technically be released, by NFL rules, to return in as little as 8 weeks, it is more likely that he won’t be back in the game until somewhere closer to Turkey Day.