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Podiatry in Sports: Seahawks’ RB Thomas Rawls fractures ankle

Seattle Seahawks rookie running back Thomas Rawls will miss the rest of the season after suffering a broken ankle and torn ligaments in a 35-6 win over the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday.

“I think the ligaments are really the problem,” head coach Pete Carroll told The News Tribune. “I don’t think he’s going to have to have an operation, from what I understand. Thomas has had a fantastic rookie season. Just exemplifies what we are all about: toughness, and hard-nosed and committed and grit and all that stuff. We love the guy, and we’re really going to miss him.”

It was on his sixth carry of the game that Rawls, an undrafted rookie out of Central Michigan, was injured on a tackle by defensive lineman Chris Canty. The medical staff tended to Rawls on the field, but he would eventually walk to the sideline under his own power.

Rawls, 22, entered Sunday’s game with 786 yards and a 5.6-yard average.

“He’s torn up about it,” Carroll said of Rawls.

“I’m sure it’s tearing him up inside because he would love to continue with his teammates.”

Unfortunately for Rawls, the road to recovery won’t be an easy one, according to Dr. Ian S. Goldbaum of Delray Beach Podiatry, as injuries to the ligaments of the ankle often take a substantial amount of rest to recover from.

“If it’s an issue with the ligaments than his recovery really depends on how many were taken out,” said Dr. Goldbaum, a podiatric physician and surgeon with over 30 years of experience. “Inside the ligaments there are sensors known as proprioceptors that provide information about joint angle, muscle length, and muscle tension, which is integrated to give information about the position of the limb in space. For example, if he wants to cut to the right or to the left, it’s up to the proprioceptors to tell his brain that. That’s why it’s so important for them to be put into the proper position.”

The ankle is a hinge joint between the leg and the foot, and allows up and down movement. The bones of the leg – the tibia and fibula — form a slot, and the talus bone of the foot fits between them. The talus is held to the tibia and fibula by strong bands of tissue called ligaments. Each ligament is made of many strands or fibers of a material called collagen, which is extremely strong.

While it is unclear exactly what ligaments were damaged during the injury, Dr. Goldbaum insists that rest and stabilization will play the biggest role in Rawls’ recovery.

“The most important thing is for the tear to be rested,” said Dr. Goldbaum. “They have to make sure that the ligaments come back into their appropriate positions because of the proprioceptors so the brain can pick up exactly where his foot is in relation to the ground. If this isn’t done correctly, there can be recurring ankle sprains.”

As for additional treatment, Dr. Goldbaum notes that platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is being used more frequently for its effectiveness in the treatment of injuries such as Rawls. PRP is plasma that contains more platelets than what is typically found in blood. These platelets contain hundreds of proteins called growth factors which are very important in the healing of injuries. This process has become especially popular in recent years with famous athletes like Tiger Woods and Rafael Nadal using PRP to treat their injuries.

“We take the patients blood and we spin it,” Dr. Goldbaum said of the PRP process. “We take out the plasma part, which has all of the growth factors, so we can get it to heal faster. I’m not sure if they used that with (Rawls), but that’s a big deal today.”

At this point, the Seahawks have given no timetable for Rawls’ recovery, but according to Dr. Goldbaum, it’s unlikely that this injury will have any lingering negative affects on his play heading into next season if it is tended to properly.

“Once you break those ligaments, they’re never going to be 100 percent again in a structural sense,” said Dr. Goldbaum. “The goal is to bring them back as close to 100 percent as you can — that’s where the PRP and other treatments come in — and for the training staff to do everything they can once he’s healthy to keep him that way by taking special measures with his next season.”

Follow Delray Beach Podiatry on Twitter @Delray_Podiatry

The content on this website is for informational purposes only. Do not rely or act upon information from without seeking professional medical advice. If you live in South Florida and would like a consultation with Dr. Ian Goldbaum, a podiatric physician and surgeon with over 30 years of experience, please see our contact information below:


16244 S. Military Trail #290, Delray Beach, FL 33445



8198 Jog Road #100, Boynton Beach, FL 33472





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