The Texas Longhorns lost a vital piece of their offense on Saturday when center, Dominic Espinosa, left the game with an ankle injury. It was later reported that Espinosa suffered a broken ankle and will miss the rest of his senior season.

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The Longhorns are in the process of rebuilding their offensive line. Espinosa was the most experienced player amongst a group of young offensive linemen. He was expected to be the leader that held the group together, but he will now have to watch the games from the sideline.

The offensive and defensive lines are often referred to as the trenches of a football field, and rightfully so. Linemen tend to be the biggest and strongest players on the field, and their job is to knock each other down. When they fall, they tend to fall hard, and unfortunately, injuries are often the result. On Saturday, a North Texas defender rolled into Espinosa’s right leg, knocking Espinosa down. Espinosa was unable to place any weight on his leg, and he needed to be carted off of the field. He had an X-ray later that night, and an MRI the next day, revealing the broken ankle. 

The ankle is made up of three bones that come together, called the tibia, fibula, and talus. They are connected by multiple ligaments. Because so much weight is placed on the ankle joint, ankle injuries are very common in athletes. Often times an ankle is rolled, resulting in a torn ligament, or an ankle sprain. Depending on how badly the ankle is sprained, where the injury occurs, and how quickly the injury is treated, recovery timetables for ankle sprains can range anywhere from days to months. The initial hope for Longhorns fans was that the injury was a high ankle sprain. Espinosa was one of only 2 returning starters on Texas’ offensive line. He has now been replaced by redshirt freshman, Jake Raulerson.

Raulerson replaced Espinosa in Saturday’s game, and muffed several snaps. He will have to put in plenty of extra work in practice to become comfortable with quarterback, David Ash. Unfortunately, Ash suffered a concussion, and likely won’t be able to  work with Raulerson much until he recovers. Protecting the quarterback could be a major issue for Texas moving forward. If an inexperienced, and now depleted, offensive line cannot pull their own weight, David Ash is going to be at serious risk of suffering additional injuries.

It was confirmed a few hours ago that Espinosa will undergo surgery on Wednesday morning. The specifics of the surgical intervention will be determined by the degree of dislocation. If the ankle bones are only minimally out of alignment, he could be able to bypass any metal placed in the wound and opt for a closed or open reduction of the fracture. That is the best case scenario and would have Espinosa simply wearing a brace to keep the bones stable. Anything more severe that a minor fracture-dislocation will likely include metal plates, rods, and/or screws being put in his ankle to hold the bones in place while they heal. Ankle fractures are very painful, and the rehabilitation process can be lengthy and difficult. The injury is incredibly unfortunate for Espinosa, but he will be able to receive treatment from some of the best doctors and trainers in the world. Hopefully he can recover quickly and be pain-free with no lingering issues.