Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered a right ankle sprain during the second quarter of the Tennessee game on Saturday and did not return to action. On Sunday it was then reported that he underwent a successful ‘tight-rope procedure’ for a high ankle sprain, despite the fact he was seen walking without a boot or crutches to an ambulance following the injury.
Head coach Nick Saban released a statement on Sunday saying “our physicians performed a successful tight-rope procedure on his right ankle this morning. This is the same injury, but the opposite ankle that Tua injured last season. Tua will miss next week’s game against Arkansas, but we expect a full and speedy recovery.”
According to Dr. David Chao – Pro Football Doc – suggests that surgery isn’t needed unless the ankle joint is unstable, widened or even completely torn which the fact that he walked to an ambulance completely under his own power, likely means the joint is ok.
Dr. Chao also reported that the surgery isn’t the norm in orthopedics today, via the San Diego Union Tribune.
It is unusual to have surgery like this unless the ankle mortice (joint) is unstable or widened. It is unlikely that this is the case for Tua, as he walked off the field with minimal limp and was later seen sans crutches or boot getting into an ambulance.
I am not being critical of the physician promoting this procedure or doing the surgery, since I have not examined the player. What is unusual, though, is the that Tua was able to walk and still had the surgery.
Saquan Barkley, for example, returned to play this week. When the Giants’ running back suffered his high ankle sprain, he was placed on crutches and wore a protective a boot after the injury. Barkley was unable to walk, yet he returned at four weeks without surgery.
Once again, to be clear, I am not being critical of the procedure. I am merely pointing out that this not the current norm in orthopedics, let alone with a high-level athlete. It certainly is not the norm in the NFL today.
Everyone understands that most ankle injuries vary person-to-person and there are certainly different degrees of ankle injuries, but nevertheless, it’s interesting to see the comparison between Tagovailoa who underwent surgery and Barkley who didn’t.
It sounds like a precautionary surgery, at least through Saban’s comments, but only time will tell. Tagovailoa will be a Top 3 pick in this year’s NFL Draft, so the precautionary route isn’t a bad one to take.
Alabama plays Arkansas this Saturday before a bye week. The Crimson Tide then have it’s the biggest game of the season against LSU the following weekend.