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Podiatry in Sports: Sabres’ Eichel Suffering from High Ankle Sprain

The Buffalo Sabres were greeted with some unfortunate news on the eve of the 2016-17 regular season when it was announced that budding superstar forward Jack Eichel had suffered a high ankle sprain in practice.

“You expect to have to deal with injuries throughout the year,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “It’s one we are going to have to deal with, whatever the extent of the situation is. Our team is not just Jack Eichel, it’s not just Ryan O’Reilly.”

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Eichel finished last season with 56 points, including a team-best 24 goals, and was expected to play a major role in elevating Buffalo out of the cellar of the Eastern Conference this season.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the initial prognosis is that Eichel will miss a minimum of four to six weeks, but that kind of timeline is uncertain with this injury.

When a high ankle sprain occurs, there is the potential for several structures to be damaged. These include the syndesmotic ligaments that connect the tibia to the fibula, as well as a tissue known as the interosseous membrane.

At Delray Beach Podiatry, Dr. Ian S. Goldbaum, a podiatric physician and surgeon with over 30 years of experience, has seen numerous high-ankle sprains throughout his tenure in medicine and can offer some insight into Eichel’s situation based on the information currently available.

High ankle sprains are described as high because they are located above the ankle. They are caused by an outward twisting of the foot and ankle and comprise approximately 15% of all ankle sprains.

According to Dr. Goldbaum, the severity of this injury often depends on how many of these structures are damaged and recovery times can vary from a few weeks to a few months.

High ankle sprains are graded on a scale of 1–3 based on their severity:

Grade 1 (Mild): In mild cases, the ligaments are somewhat stretched, resulting in joint stiffness, muscle weakness or tightness with reduced balance and joint awareness. It takes approximately six weeks for ligaments to fully heal from a Grade 1 sprain.

Grade 2 (Moderate): In moderate cases, there is significant ligament stretching and sometimes partial tearing. It is far more painful than a mild sprain and can make it difficult to walk. A recovery time of 6 to 12 weeks can be expected.

Grade 3 (Severe): In severe cases, the ligament can completely rupture. There is severe swelling, extensive bruising, and immense pain felt with a Grade 3 sprain. In most cases, a patient will need a screw inserted into their ankle to stabilize the area while it heals. A recovery time of 3 to 6 months can be expected.

As a rookie, Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall missed eight weeks with a high ankle sprain, prematurely ending his season. In 2015, Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray missed approximately three weeks with a high ankle sprain of his own.

Given the initial recovery timetable of 4-6 weeks, it’s more than likely that Eichel is suffering from a Grade 2 sprain, which means that there could be some minor ligament tearing.

“Looking at his current timetable and the fact that he apparently doesn’t need surgery, I’d say there’s a good chance he’s suffering from a Grade 2 sprain and should be fine when he returns to action,” said. Dr. Goldbaum. “That being said, these types of sprains are often hard to predict given the stunted healing properties in the high-ankle area.

“If he is, in fact, suffering from a less severe sprain, then it’s very possible he could start rehabbing in only a few weeks. Although the area won’t fully heal for at least six weeks, he could return to the ice far sooner than that and continue playing through the healing process. That is, like I said, if it’s only a moderate, Grade 1 sprain.”

As for treatment, R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression and elevation) will play a large role in Eichel’s recovery. Additionally, ultrasound technology, injections, laser therapy and PRP could be used to expedite the recovery process.

In recent years, platlet-rich plasma (PRP) is being used far more frequently because of its effectiveness in the treatment of injuries such as ankle fractures and sprains. 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.

“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 that’s what they’re going to use with (Eichel), but that’s a big deal today.”

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 33484



 8198 Jog Road #100, Boynton Beach, FL 33472



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