Arizona Basketball

A look at high ankle sprains involving Arizona Wildcats and how long Jackson-Cartwright may be out

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Ever wondered exactly what in the heck is a high ankle sprain? Isn’t the ankle confined to that knobby bone sticking out above your foot to the side? How can you go “high” above that?

We all know ankle sprains. I had a few of them playing basketball at a young age. The ankle is sore for about a week and then it is good to go.

Those who suffer high ankle sprains, such as Arizona junior guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright in last night’s game at McKale Center, know the symptoms are much different.

Parker Jackson-Cartwright writhing in pain after going down awkwardly trying to maneuver around a screen last night against Texas Southern (Pac-12 Neworks video capture)

Parker Jackson-Cartwright writhing in pain after going down awkwardly trying to maneuver around a screen last night against Texas Southern (Pac-12 Neworks video capture)

Arizona running back Nick Wilson, out for most of this season with a high ankle sprain, can attest that such an injury is not easy to return from. He suffered the injury in Game 3 against Hawaii and tried to return but had only 12 carries the rest of the season and missed the last five games entirely.

According to the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS), high ankle sprains are defined as follows:

“The high ankle ligaments are located above the ankle, as opposed to the more commonly injured ligaments on the outside of the ankle. These high ankle ligaments connect the tibia to the fibula. It is important to have stability between the tibia and fibula at this level because walking and running place a tremendous amount of force at this junction. A high ankle sprain occurs when there is tearing and damage to the high ankle ligaments. These injuries are much less common than a traditional ankle sprain.”

Jackson-Cartwright is wearing a walking boot to help stabilize the tibia and fibula to be in the correct position in relation to each other.

So how long is the recovery from this type of injury?

“It usually takes six weeks or more to return to play, but can sometimes take even longer,” AOFAS writes on its Web site.

No comments were made by Arizona coach Sean Miller that Jackson-Cartwright requires surgery (in which a separation of the tibia and fibula or fracture has occurred). If that was the case, Jackson-Cartwright would be out for at least three months, which would mean he couldn’t return until March.

If it is an injury that only requires wearing a walking boot and undergoing therapy, Jackson-Cartwright will potentially be out for six to seven weeks, or until late January.

A tweet by Jackson-Cartwright in October carries meaning today

The AOFAS also reports that high ankle sprains leave a lingering effect of stiffness of the ankle. That means Jackson-Cartwright will likely not be at 100 percent even after his potential return until the ankle is completely healed, which might not be until next season.

Former Arizona hoops player turned football standout Kelvin Eafon, now Pueblo High School’s boys basketball coach and analyst of the pre- and post-game shows on KCUB (1290-AM), said before yesterday’s game that a high ankle sprain was his most serious injury.

It occurred in practice before Arizona’s trip to the Holiday Bowl in 1998 when the Wildcats played Nebraska.

Eafon rushed only five times for 14 yards, but he ran for the go-ahead touchdown near the end of the game, in the 23-20 win over the Cornhuskers that improved Arizona’s record to 12-1.

Arizona coach Dick Tomey earlier called on Eafon, hobbling from the injury, to gain a first down on a fourth-and-1 situation at the Nebraska 21 late in the third quarter. Eafon carried the ball behind lead blockers Paul Shields and Jim Wendler to gain 2 yards and keep the drive alive.

The Wildcats ultimately scored on a 15-yard pass from Keith Smith to Brad Brennan to put Arizona ahead 16-13.

“Kelvin couldn’t walk three days ago,” Tomey said after the game. “He worked and worked and played a big role in this game. That did my heart good.”

Eafon, who was a senior in 1998, said in the post-game show last night that he was only at “50 percent” in the Holiday Bowl and it took a long time for the injury to heal thereafter.

Former Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a high ankle sprain in 2012 in the AFC Championship game, which limited him to only two receptions for 26 yards against the New York Giants in New England’s 21-17 loss in Super Bowl XLVI. He was videotaped dancing without his shirt in the Patriots’ postgame team party.

Gronkowski said he felt “100 percent” in the Super Bowl, but his ankle required arthroscopic surgery five days after the Super Bowl.

Expect Miller and Arizona’s training staff to go the safer route with Jackson-Cartwright, as they did with Wilson after realizing Wilson’s ankle needed extended time to heal.

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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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