How is a broken ankle like a concussion? That's something our podiatrist in Houston, Dr. Andrew Schneider, got to discover (in a very personal way) last year. Here's what he learned, and here's how it can help you and the athlete's in your house stay safe from sports injuries

Broken Ankle Playing Football

At the time in question, the then Dallas Cowboys' quarterback Dak Prescott broke his ankle. If you saw it, you'll remember that it was a gruesome injury. Then, by the end of the week, Dr. Schneider's son Jonah fell at school and suffered a moderate concussion. It’s hard to compare a broken ankle to a concussion. There is a major element of both injuries that made one worse and the other not as bad.

Houston podiatrist discusses Dak Prescott's broken ankleAnd yet, Dr. Schneider is a big football fan, despite his teams having gone nowhere for a long time. While he grew up a New York Jets fan and suffered through many cold seasons as a season ticket holder, he moved to Houston and jumped on Texans season tickets as soon as the team was announced. 

Typically, despite playing just a few hours to the North, the Dallas Cowboys are simply not on his radar. But in that fateful game against the Giants, as the Cowboys quarterback, Dak Prescott was running with the ball in a draw play, something big happened. The pro athlete suffered a takedown by the Giant’s Logan Ryan, with his ankle caught beneath Ryan. While underneath, the ankle rotated and broke. When he came out of the tackle, his foot was facing the wrong way. He was carted off, understandably with tears in his eyes. Thus began a season-ending injury for the star player. 

Youth Sports Injuries and the NFL: What's the Connection? 

A few days later came another sports-related incident. Dr. Schneider's youngest son Jonah was running around the basketball court at school. A low branch hit his face and he fell straight back with his head bouncing off the concrete. He blacked out, was forgetful, and unsteady on his feet. Jonah was evaluated at Texas Children’s Hospital. They diagnosed him with a moderate concussion. Fortunately, there was no bleeding or fracture. Dr. Schneider reports that his crew have pretty hard heads! Luckily, that was where the trouble stopped for the young baller. But that's where our poditarist in Houston's story diverged from that of the NFL QB. 

Making a Broken Ankle Worse

In the aftermath of the NFL and family member's injury, Dr. Schneider noticed one key difference that completely changed each athlete's recover process. There is one movement that worsened Prescott’s ankle injury. The lack of it prevented Jonah’s concussion from becoming worse.Houston podiatrist discusses Jonah's concussion The motion that hurt Dak Prescott the most was the rotation of the ankle. This happened while his ankle was trapped under the Giant’s player. It caused a compound fracture and splintered the bones. And, quickly, a simple fracture became a season-ending injury. Without that rotation, his injury simply would hot have been as bad as it ended up being. In fact, he might have made it back on the field in 6 to 8 weeks. 

Similarly, the WNBA's Las Vegas Aces star Candace Parker learned the trouble with rotation this year. She'd been playing all season on a broken foot. (Not something we'd recommend, by the way.) Still, she was able to power through the injury and be a major team contributor. Until, that is, her ankle rotated inward during a game in July 2023. Suddenly, playing on that injury was no longer possible. Instead, she needed to surgically repair her injury. And now, her return to the WNBA is still in question, as she waits to see how her recovery will play out. 

Contrast that to Jonah’s concussion. The injury occurred when he was hit in the face and fell straight back onto the concrete. The doctor shared that because he fell straight back, the concussion was not as bad as it could have been. If his head had rotated during the fall and his contact with the floor, it would have led to a much more severe concussion. So, he was saved by a lack of rotation.

Preventing Rotation with a Broken Ankle

Rotation can be considered a multiplier to any injury. When the foot plants and rotates, a metatarsal fracture can result. And the rotation doesn't have to come from a major injury, either. In fact, Dr. Schneider has a patient who kicked a soccer ball with his kids. The rotation caused a foot fracture. or, for a more remarkable example, think back to former Texan’s quarterback Matt Schaub. His foot was planted, and the rotation caused a season-ending Lisfranc injury. (For reference, check out our blog on this injury here.  Or, if you just want a quick summary, we got you. A Lisfranc injury describes trauma to the series of joints surrounding your cuboid and cuneiform bones. While typically only a problem for athletes, it's definitely associated with rotation on many occasions.)

So, our take-home message is that rotation is bad. It's one factor that takes minor injuries into major problem territory. Whether it be your foot, ankle, or your head. Luckily, Dak Prescott recovered from this injury. In fact, so far in the 2023 season, he's thrown 13 touchdowns and more than 2000 yards, with just 5 interceptions. Even more important for our Tanglewood Foot Specialists family? We're happy to share that Jonah recovered from his concussion very nicely. He went back to school, graduated from middle school and is now a freshman in high school, who still enjoys the occasional concussion free game of pick up basketball. 

However, what both these athletes can teach us is this. Rotation makes every injury (and recovery) worse. So, if you feel like you may have a foot or ankle injury, whether it's a sprain, fracture, or anything else that causes pain? Contact Houston podiatrist Dr. Andrew Schneider for an immediate appointment. Especially if any rotation was involved in the process. We have an in office, no wait x-ray on site and can diagnose your issue quickly. Don’t hesitate to call.

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