(consultation with Dr. Starks for this article)
Julio Jones, Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, and Devin Hester are all suffering from ankle injuries today.
Why are all of these receivers suffering from ankle injuries? The answer is as complex as the ankle joint is. First, it is a good idea to just have a general understanding of the ankle joint, or shall I say joints. The ankle is actually comprised of 3 joints, although most injury reports will simply state “ankle”. Without getting in too much depth; the three are as follows:
The talocrural joint is the connection between the talus bone and the distal (away from the center of your body) ends of the tibia and fibula (the two lower leg bones). This joint allows your foot to go up and down as if you were tapping your feet to music. This is known as Dorsiflexion and Plantarflexion.
The subtalar joint is the connection between the talus bone and the calcaneus (heel bone) and primarily allows your foot to turn in and out similar to the motions you experience when you turn or sprain your ankle. This is knows as inversion and eversion.
The distal tibiofibular joint is where the tibia and fibula connect (near your foot). This joint contributes very little to movement, but can contribute significantly to injury as when the structures that connect this joint are injured; it becomes very painful and limits weight bearing.
What You Need To Know
Before I bore you with all the anatomy, the reason this is important to your player is that you can see above that these players have 3 ways to injure their ankles. Additionally, with complex or severe ankle injuries, they also have 3 areas that may limit healing or performance.
Specifically with receivers, their is a burden to make that foot go up and down as well as in and out on almost every pass play. Additionally with the ankle being what I like to call the liaison to the ground, it must constantly try to stabilize on grass, turf, and various uneven terrains. When you add in the factors of jumping, getting hit, and trying to get your feet down in bounds; these receivers are in for a struggle with ankle injuries.
As a general rule of thumb, you can split your receivers into big bodies and quick bodies. All of the receivers we have listed are big bodies with the exception of Hester. Big bodies generally will do better with these injuries as they can limit the strain on the ankle by running one move or no move routes and using their bodies to get position and make catches. Quick bodies like Hester or say a Desean Jackson/Percy Harvin type do not have this luxury. A quick body receiver without good mobility or push off in his ankle might as well be a kicker.
Despite the favorable outlook for these big body receivers, I would still be cautious in playing them. The average ankle injury will linger for about 3 weeks. If I see a player missing late week practices after an ankle injury, I would prefer to sit him. This may not always be the right move but more often than not a player who can’t practice all week and then goes out with a heavily taped ankle on game day is only there as a decoy for the defense to respect. Check to see if your player practiced on Thursday; if not, find someone else to avoid a dud at the receiver slot.
As for our current ankle injuries this is what I recommend:
Julio Jones-start him, he is fine. His ankle injury is really not ankle specific and is more related to a foot injury from last year. I would classify his ankle issue as more of a secondary injury and it should not affect his play at all.
Devin Hester-He is a good example of how one rule cancels out the other. Hester is definitely a quick body receiver that I would generally worry about with an ankle injury, however the fact that he practiced Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday according to the Falcons allows me to start him with no worries.
Brandon Marshall-Marshall is definitely a green light at this point despite two poor performances. He as 3 weeks of recovery under his belt and has been practicing in full. He should be back to his normal self.
Calvin Johnson-Megatron is hard to tell because he misses a lot of practice. In my opinion his ankle injury is too recent and he has had too little practice. I know its like putting Michael Jordan on the bench, but I would bench Megatron this week and expect the Lions to handle the Bills without much from him.
Andre Johnson-Johnson is another one that is difficult to call after injuring his ankle just last week. He reports feeling something pop and has had little practice this week. On one hand I feel Andre Johnson is the most skilled professional of this bunch and out of the 5 receivers he should be able to play with an injury the best. On the other hand he is 33 years old and one week out from what appears to be a low ankle injury. I think you can go either way with this one and I would ultimately make the decision based on matchup and what other receivers are available, but my official stance is to sit him. When in doubt, go with the science. Old + new injury+ little practice =poor performance.
Enjoy the games!