Chicago Bears’ Matt Forte suffers high ankle sprain in Packers game

14 Sep
matt forte on sidelines high ankle sprain

Matt Forte being treated for high ankle sprain

Matt Forte, the Chicago Bears’ leading rusher the past four seasons, is sidelined with a high right ankle sprain, which will keep him off the field for at least several weeks.

That’s bad news for the Bears who were crushed by Green Bay Thursday night,  23-10 in Week 2. Stepping into Forte’s position will be Michael Bush who was signed in the off season to be their short yardage and relief back.

Forte was having a great game Thursday night until he went down in the 3rd quarter after colliding with Packer Charles Woodson who rolled up on his ankle. Forte left the game after rushing for 31 yards on seven attempts and 45 yards receiving on four catches. He did not return to the game and the Bears have no timetable for his return. Here’s the video of the collision.

What is a high ankle sprain?
high ankle sprain illustration

Click for larger view

In a normal ankle sprain, the ligaments that surround the ankle joint are torn, causing pain and swelling around the ankle.  A high ankle sprain is an injury to the ligament above the ankle (see illustration at right) that joins the two bones of the lower leg together. These two bones, the tibia (shin bone) and fibula, run from the knee down to the ankle.

High ankle sprains tend not to heal as well as more common ankle sprains, and that’s why athletic trainers and coaches are very cautious about returning an athlete to the lineup too quickly. First it must be determined if the high ankle sprain is stable or unstable. Stable high ankle sprains are less severe – the tibia and fibula stay in their normal orientation. Unstable high ankle sprains occur when two or all three ligaments above the ankle are torn and the tibia and fibula are free to move.

If the injury is stable, the high ankle sprain can be treated in a cast, usually for a period of 6 weeks. If the injury is unstable, a podiatric surgeon may need to place a screw between the tibia and fibula to hold the bones in proper position while the ligaments heal.

Treatment of high ankle sprains depend on severity. An athlete may be out for as little as five or six days with a stable injury or as long as six months with an unstable injury.  Stable high ankle sprains are treated by reducing movement of the lower leg and foot with a brace or removable boot and RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression (taping, splint or cast), Elevation. A removable brace or boot allows for the use of other therapies also such as electrical stimulation to speed healing. Once the swelling has been reduced, physical rehabilitation can begin. If the injury required surgery however, the ankle will often need a six-week period of immobilization prior to physical rehabilitation.

Physical Rehabilitation is very important in healing a high ankle sprain.  Many high ankle sprains also involve the lower ankle, so rehabilitation must strengthen the muscles in the lower leg to give the ankle the stability that is lost from the injured ligaments. For athletes, rehab is focused on strength, balance and neuromuscular control while incorporating sport specific drills. The effectiveness of rehab and how quickly a person fully recovers is different for each individual.

Last season Forte missed the final four games with a knee sprain, then went through a controversial contract negotiation. Eventually, he signed a four-year contract for about $32 million. One of the major contentions of the Bears in the negotiations was that Forte was an injury risk, as he also had a knee injury his second season.

High ankle sprains are a serious injury for a running back and the Bears will miss Forte, one of the NFL’s best all-around backs.

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