Washington Nationals superstar Jayson Werth — a Chatham Glenwood graduate — is at it again, playing his style of ball with gusto and instinct. Some may call it reckless abandon, but for Jason he’s playing it the only way he knows how — all out. Behind his long hair and full beard, he still plays hard at 35 years of age. He roams the outfield like a deer chasing down balls in the gap. He’s not afraid to dive for sinking liners, and he hunts down pop-ups along the wall. On the base paths, he’s still quick and uses his instincts to steal a base. If he sees an opportunity to stretch a single into a double, he’ll take the gamble.
A couple of days ago, his gamble against the Marlins didn’t pay off. When Jason laced the ball in right field, he tried to stretch a single into a double. A strong throw from the outfielder caused him to step for the inside of the bag to evade the tag by the shortstop. He landed awkwardly on the outside of his right ankle causing a sprain. OUCH! Luckily, his injury wasn’t too severe. Tuesday, he didn’t start but made a pinch-hit appearance. His return to the starting lineup Wednesday was good news for Jason, but it could have turned into a nightmare. A nightmare he could not afford at this stage in his career.
Ankle sprains and stress fractures are two of the most common injuries in baseball. Ankle sprains are caused by an unnatural twisting or force on the ankle bones of the foot, which may result in excessive stretching or tearing of one or more ligaments on the outside of the ankle. A fracture occurs if a bone gives way and breaks, or from simultaneous tears in the ligaments.
Although most ankle sprains are more likely to happen during an athletic activity, they can also happen while running, walking or during a routine activity like stepping out of the shower or bath tub, getting out of bed, or walking down the stairs.
The symptoms of a sprain are usually mild acting to sudden pain, throbbing, swelling, discoloration, redness and warmth. In severe cases, the ankle can become unstable. Conventional treatment requires rest and elevation and cold therapy to reduce swelling. Compressive bandages may also be used to immobilize and support the ankle. Physical therapy is often necessary to regain strength, balance and flexibility.
The most common type of sprain is an inversion or inward stress injury. The least common one is an eversion or outward stress sprain. The severity of the sprain can impact the degree of damage as well as the type and duration of treatment. If not properly treated, ankle sprains may develop into long-term problems.
There are three grades of sprains, Grade I sprains being the mildest and Grade III sprains being the most severe. In order to diagnose a sprain, a thorough physical exam is required. Sometimes an X-ray or MRI is required to rule out a fracture of ligament damage. Surgical intervention is normally not required; however, serious ankle sprains, particularly among competitive athletes, may require surgery to repair and tighten the damaged ligaments.
Ankle stress fractures are generally caused by applying a severe force on the joint (like jumping from a high level or jamming the joint), severely twisting the ankle from side to side, or rolling the ankle joint. It is sometimes difficult to diagnose a fracture from a sprain, tendon injury or dislocation without an X-ray or MRI of the ankle.
The most common symptom of an ankle fracture is severe pain. Pain normally originates at the site however; it can also come from another area associated with another fracture. Other symptoms include mild to moderate swelling, bruising and discoloration. Often, you can see the bone deformity. Sometimes the skin is stretched around the broken bone, or the bone is exposed. Significant pain can be experienced if there is nerve and blood vessel damage. In this instance, the skin color will likely be pale. Also the foot may be numb making it difficult to move the toes.
The good news is that surgical treatment is not necessary most of the time. The ankle can usually be immobilized for a four- to six-week period by wearing a brace or cast. Surgery may be required if the fracture is severe, if the bone is displaced, or if other critical problems need to be addressed.
It is not wise to return to full activity until you have healed, regained your normal range of motion and are pain free. Too often, players with ankle sprains or fractures try to return to play too soon and compromise their recovery. If you have a sprained ankle or suspect that you have an ankle fracture, do not take a chance and play through the pain. You may do more harm than good. No game is worth the possibility of doing further damage and affecting your physical well-being.
Schedule an appointment with a board-certified foot and ankle surgeon for a physical examination and diagnostic testing. This is essential to understand the level of the trauma and necessary medical treatment to facilitate recovery. Check your surgeon’s surgical experience and record of success.
For more information on these types of injuries, visit the Foot & Ankle Center of Illinois at myfootandanklecenter.com or schedule a consultation with Dr. Sigle by calling (217) 787-2700.
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