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Calvin Pryor and Dion Bailey: Dealing with a High Ankle Sprain

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The depth at safety has grown thin over the past few weeks all due to the same injury.

Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Calvin Pryor suffered a high ankle sprain in the second half against the Patriots and his replacement, Dion Bailey, suffered the same injury vs. the Jags. Pryor has been sidelined since that game and has yet to return from the injury report; when will we see him return and will Bailey be out just as long?

What is a high ankle sprain?

The shin is comprised of two bones: the tibia (the bigger bone) and the fibula (the little bone). These two bones are connected through a syndesmosis, series of ligaments that joins two bones together. This injury occurs above the ankle joint thus aptly named high ankle sprain.

This injury is very different than a typical ankle sprain where one of the ligaments that connect the shin to the foot are torn (slightly, partially, or completely depending on severity). A typical ankle sprain occurs at the level of the ankle.

How does one typically suffer a high ankle sprain?

High ankle sprains commonly occur with heavy rotation of the ankle while the shin is still. As a result, the ankle turns too far out without having the rest of the leg moving with it causing increased tension on the muscles and ligaments in the area resulting in strains. The depth at safety has grown thin over the past few weeks all due to the same injury. (for muscles) or sprains (for ligaments).

How long does recovery usually take?

It usually takes athletes about 6-8 weeks to fully recover from this injury but can get back onto the field as quick as 4 weeks. Typically, athletes take another 1-2 weeks to fully condition themselves back to game shape. This is under the assumption that neither athlete needs surgery (since that should have happened already if necessary) in which they are likely gone for the rest of the season.

It takes that long for this injury to heal because ligaments do not have a good blood supply; as a result, it takes longer for the appropriate nutrients, proteins, etc. necessary for proper healing to get to the sprained ligament(s). For the first week or two, the athlete is immobilized in a walking boot and possibly on crutches to avoid further injury and protect the damaged ligaments as much as possible. He is told to avoid bearing weight on that ankle, trying to rest it as much as possible before beginning rehab.

Once the ligaments have fully healed (about 3-4 weeks after the injury), the athlete can transition out of the boot and gradually into normal sneakers. During this transition, physical therapy will facilitate reducing the swelling and regaining full range of motion and strength to the ankle. More importantly, focus will also be on gait training to assure that the athlete can walk normally without any significant deviations. As range of motion and strength improve, balance and cardiovascular activities will begin as a precursor to sport-specific activity such as running, cutting, etc. Agility and sprint training will resume once the athlete is ready to return to sport and get his body back into game shape.

Bottom Line

Reports have come out that Pryor is set to return this week, taking 4 weeks to recover from this injury. Pryor had the benefit of 10 days off to accelerate his recovery since it allowed the training staff to focus more on him. A relatively quick recovery also tells me that the sprain was slight and not as severe as it could have been. If Bailey takes as much time to recover, he can be back as quick as the Giants game in Week 13 or as late as the home game with the Pats in Week 16.