Broncos’ star wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders has been playing (and not playing) through a high ankle sprain that he sustained in the Broncos’ Nov. 8th game agains the Colts. Sanders was assessed, taped and was able to finish the game. He nursed the ankle sprain throughout the week and returned to play, again with his ankle taped, on Nov. 15th to face the Chiefs. Due to increased swelling and pain, Sanders’ productivity in that game suffered and he was forced to leave the game and subsequently sat out last Sunday’s game against the Bears.
High (syndesmotic) ankle sprains are highly variable in their presentation and recovery. Only severe, unstable injuries (those which include a fracture of the bones in addition to an injury to the ligaments) require surgery. More stable injuries that don’t require surgery pose a challenge for players and physicians to determine the best time for return to play. A study of collegiate football players found a range of 2-30 days until return to play after high ankle sprains with an average time of 15 days. This study found that physical exam at the time of injury was a useful predictor of return to play. A larger zone of tenderness predicted longer time for recovery.
We predict that Sanders will return to play after two weeks rest, four weeks after his injury, and just in time to face Tom Brady and the Patriots.