Injury Expert: Why Patrick Mahomes Can Play Well With High Ankle Sprain

Written By Will Carroll on January 23, 2023 - Last Updated on January 27, 2023
patrick mahomes high ankle sprain

Patrick Mahomes has been here before – both in the AFC Championship Game, and in pain, trying to figure out if his high ankle sprain will hold back hopes of a second Super Bowl title for another year. Mahomes has had this issue at least three times now. On Saturday, it was the classic mechanism that got him again – rolled up from the outside, pushing the bones of the lower leg apart as it’s forced inward. The pain was immediate, but Mahomes was not only able to continue on, but reports are that he’s having less pain and swelling than expected.

What does that mean for his availability and productivity against the Bengals Sunday with a spot in Super Bowl 57 on the line? I’ll explain.

Patrick Mahomes High Ankle Sprain Explained

Will Carroll has covered injuries in sports for more than 20 years, working at places like ESPN, Baseball Prospectus, Football Outsiders, and FanDuel. He’s written four books, including the upcoming “The Science of Football” and consults with several pro teams. He is currently the Director of Bioanalytics for Northstarr, a sports science startup company.

Editor’s Note

So how is it possible Mahomes might have less pain and swelling? He has been here before.

Ligaments stretch and lose some elasticity with enough damage. Imagine that Mahomes has done this more than the three times we know of and that his high ankle is like some old socks – functional, but loose. That’s not uncommon. Leonard Fournette has had recurrent injuries to his ankle, allowing him to roll over this much, but come back in the same game. Steph Curry is much the same, with his lax ankles being one of the reasons he fell in the draft and resulting in surgery to tighten them a few years into his career. He’s had some issues since, but he’s also been pretty good.

For Mahomes, the expectation is that he will be able to play and at the very least will be at or near the level he was on Saturday. The Chiefs medical staff is one of the best, and they’ll be focused on getting as much of the inflammation out. If it’s less than normal, that’s even better. Mahomes will likely get one of those “use the whole box” tape jobs which does reduce some movement, but is one of few ways to protect the joint. 

Don’t discount that the Chiefs loss to the Bucs in the Super Bowl a few years ago, while playing on a similar injury, didn’t get addressed in his training as well. You all read Chapter 7 of my book “The Science of Football“, right? His unorthodox training methods include many asymmetrical activities, training his body to deal with a limp or an inability to cut one way. He practices throws from all angles, one foot, and no feet. While I don’t know for sure, my guess is he’s practiced how to deal with this, since it’s a known condition.

Expectations For Mahomes In AFC Championship Game

My expectation is that Mahomes will be better than expected on Sunday and will play with only slight limitations.

He won’t run much, but he can scramble enough and look for short passes to deal with Cincinnati’s complex pass rush. Expect Jerick McKinnon to be used more for both a safety valve and his blocking skills, which could impact Isaiah Pacheco’s totals. We’re already seeing the game Over/under creep down, but I’ll bet the Over (barring unforeseen winter weather). The offensive talents of Patrick Mahomes should match up with Joe Burrow once again.

Patrick Mahomes Props

Player props within NFL Playoffs Odds, other than anytime touchdown, are slow to release with Mahomes dealing with his injury this week. More should populate in this table closer to kickoff.

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Written by
Will Carroll

Will Carroll has covered injuries in sports for more than 20 years, working at places like ESPN, Baseball Prospectus, Football Outsiders, and FanDuel. He’s written four books, including the upcoming “The Science of Football” and consults with several pro teams. He is currently the Director of Bioanalytics for Northstarr, a sports science startup company.

View all posts by Will Carroll