Patrick Mahomes has a tough road ahead to heal his high-ankle sprain — here's why

  • Patrick Mahomes reinjured a high-ankle sprain during the 2023 Super Bowl on Sunday.
  • High-ankle sprains are rarer than low-ankle sprains and recovery can take some time.
  • For more serious ankle injuries, a doctor said what is called the RICE method can help.

Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes played through a high-ankle sprain during the 2023 Super Bowl on Sunday to help his team win against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Towards the end of the first half, Mahomes was seen limping after he was tackled by Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards. He returned to play after being treated at the sidelines.

He originally injured his ankle during a playoff against Jacksonville Jaguars on January 21, where he was tackled by defenders Arden Key and Corey Peters.

It’s harder to recover from a high-ankle sprain because pressure is constantly put on the ligament

Ankle sprains happen when someone abnormally bends or rolls their ankle joint, professor MaCalus V. Hogan, chair of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, explained in an article for The Conversation published before Mahomes’ second injury at the Super Bowl.

This leads to stretching or tearing of what is known as the anterior inferior tibiofibular ligament, which holds the bones in the ankle together.

Ankle sprains can be low or high, depending on the location. Mahomes suffered a high-ankle sprain during his original injury, which is rarer than low.

Hogan wrote that Mahomes seemed to suffer a moderate sprain, and most people would need to rest after one to reduce inflammation.

He explained that it was a good sign that Mahomes was ready to return to play soon after the injury.

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The RICE method can help treat an ankle injury

With less serious injuries, Hogan said that most athletes are fine after a few days of rest. For more serious ankle injuries such as Mahomes’, he tells patients to reduce pain and swelling with the RICE method: rest, ice, compression — wrapping the injury in a medical bandage — and elevating the injury. Ibuprofen can also be used to reduce pain.

After a few days, patients should be able to put some weight on the injury. Hogan said that he would start transitioning patients to low impact training, and then gradually return to sport-specific drills.

In some cases of serious ankle sprains, ligaments can be torn completely which can require surgery to fix.

Mahomes’ Super Bowl injury mimicked his previous strain

After Mahomes was tackled at the Super Bowl, he fell with his foot pointed outwards while his knee pointed forwards. This put stress on his existing sprain, mimicking the previous injury, according to Dr. Brian Sutterer, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Sutterer explained in a YouTube video that high-ankle sprains take longer to heal than other sprains because pressure is put on the AITFL with every step the patient takes. This can make the injury worse and is why it is important to rest as much as possible.

Sutterer said that tape can be added to the ankle, as was the case after his initial injury, which adds a layer of support to the ankle.


Insider has contacted the NFL for comment on Mahomes’ injury.

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