Los Angeles Laker’ point guard Lonzo Ball suffered an inversion (inwards) sprain of his left ankle during the third quarter of the team’s eventual overtime loss to the Houston Rockets (sorry for the reminder). After MRI testing, the medical staff revealed that Ball’s injury was a grade 3 tear, and set his return timetable as four to six weeks.
After the timetable was announced, I heard consternation about the relatively short timeline considering the severity of what’s commonly referred to as a “complete rupture” of the ankle ligament. However, not all grade 3 tears are complete tears, and the return-to-play timeline depends on key factors which decide the true overall severity of the injury. These kinds of details are why trying to use online resources for your medical information isn’t always the best idea.
To that point, I made the following video on Lonzo Ball’s injury to illuminate some of those key factors, and why a four-to-six week timetable isn’t out of the question:
To sum it up: the devil is in the details. A grade 3 ligament tear refers to any tear in which the ligament is torn from 75 percent to 100 percent. On the lower end of that spectrum, it’s nearly a complete rupture but there are still attached fibers remaining. Further, the rehab timeline also depends on which ligaments were damaged and how many. Each of these influences the timeline for return.
Based on the shorter timeline set by the medical staff, my educated guess is that Ball’s grade 3 tear falls on the lower end of the spectrum and mainly involved one ligament, the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL), which would make the earlier-than-usual return the medical staff forecasted feasible.
WebMD, eat your heart out.
Dr. Rajpal Brar has a doctorate in physical therapy from Northern Arizona University, and runs his own sports medicine and performance business, 3CB Performance, in West LA and Valencia, CA. He also works at a hospital — giving him experience with patients in the immediate healthcare setting and neurological patients (post stroke, post brain injury) — and has been practicing for 1.5 years. Brar is additionally training at UCLA’s mindful awareness research center (MARC), and analyzes the Lakers from a medical perspective for Silver Screen and Roll.