Chiefs-Bengals AFC Championship: How Patrick Mahomes is recovering his injured ankle ahead of Sunday’s game

The legend of Patrick Mahomes continues to grow.

The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback was limping after a hit in the first quarter of Saturday’s 27-20 Divisional Round playoff victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Despite appearing to be in significant pain, Mahomes returned to the field after X-rays of his injured ankle came back negative. While he clearly lacked his trademark mobility, he was able to pull it off – helping lead Kansas City to its fifth straight AFC Championship game.

The injury turned out to be a high ankle sprain, which usually occurs with twisting or turning — that is, when the foot is planted and rotated relative to the leg. The injury concerns damage to the syndesmosisthese are the high ankle ligaments that connect the two bones of the lower leg: the fibula and the tibia.

This injury would normally sideline a player for several weeks – as we’ve seen with running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who hasn’t played after suffering a similar injury in Week 11.

Mahomes reportedly underwent an MRI on Sunday, which would confirm the suspected high ankle sprain. Still, there is little doubt among fans that the star quarterback will be ready to take on the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship on Sunday.

A full week of rehabilitation will be added to Mahomes’ preparation for the championship game. Let’s see what could be going on.

Mahomes’ withdrawal week

Because we don’t know the severity of the sprain, the extent of the tissue damage, or the specifics of how his body reacted in the 24-48 hours immediately after the injury, the exact rehabilitation timeline is impossible to determine. However, with reports that X-rays were negative, we know no fractures are present. This is why Mahomes was able to return during Saturday’s second half – and why he was able to play in the AFC Championship on Sunday.

High ankle sprains (and the typical inversion ankle sprain) tend to swell and stiffen – especially in the acute phase. So Mahomes will definitely be battling pain and swelling all week long. Management of these issues has already begun – and will be a big factor in how well he can recover before Sunday.

To minimize pain and stiffness — and reduce swelling — the first order of business will be to maintain and improve the ankle’s range of motion. Everything is kept as light and pain-free as possible. We can expect Mahomes’ practice participation to be limited throughout the week, as straining, cutting or planting too much will only irritate and inflame the injury.

As the week progresses, Mahomes will focus on specific strengthening exercises for his ankle and leg, likely using an underwater (and/or anti-gravity) treadmill to strengthen the lower leg and ankle and increase weight bearing. facilitate, but without stressing the soft tissue. which could trigger a further inflammatory response.

Finally, Mahomes needs specific functional football training. Balance and stability training will be used to build confidence in the limb and strengthen the joint. We should also expect him to work on planting his right foot, using some light multi-directional mobility exercises to simulate movements within the pocket.

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Jacksonville Jaguars v Kansas City Chiefs

Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

What can we expect in the AFC Championship?

Players take longer to recover from high ankle sprains than inversion ankle sprains, creating a longer timeline for regaining full mobility. Lateral rotation of the tibia will be very uncomfortable. And as we saw with Mahomes during Saturday’s second half, planting, cutting and running on the injured limb is painful – and therefore limited.

Mahomes will not be 100% before Sunday. Given his apparent pain (and lack of mobility) during Saturday’s second half, it’s likely he wouldn’t play if a Super Bowl appearance wasn’t on the line.

So while it’s hard to know exactly how his ankle will feel on kick-off, it’s likely that Mahomes won’t have his signature mobility; it will be difficult to maintain the improvisational nature of his playing.

There’s good news, though: Mahomes has made a career out of throwing from awkward, unorthodox, and non-carrying platforms. Even at worst, it’s likely he could do more than many other quarterbacks in similar circumstances.

Kansas City employs one of the league’s top medical and athletic training staff. Mahomes will have all available tools and resources at his disposal. There is reason to be confident that on Sunday he will be as far along with his recovery as can reasonably be expected.

And as Mahomes has proven time and again in his career, he is the Ultimate competitor. This injury is likely to limit his normal style of play and alter the attack plan to some extent. But Mahomes will still be… Mahomes.

So while the road to Super Bowl LVII has gotten more complicated, the Chiefs quarterback should be up to the challenge.

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