Back-to-back injuries for Alabama star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa have some wondering if he returned to play too early. While Texas Orthopedics can’t make guesses about his condition, we can provide details about these injuries and treatments.
Just three weeks after tightrope surgery for a high-ankle injury, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa played an exceptional game against LSU, despite the Crimson Tide’s suffering its first loss of the season. In the eyes of coach Nick Saban, it was a W for the quarterback.
But all of that was forgotten last weekend. His injured ankle ended up being the least of his or the team’s concerns when Tagovailoa suffered a dislocated right hip and a posterior wall fracture in the second quarter of the game against Mississippi State. The star athlete recently had surgery to repair the injury and will be unable to play for a minimum of three months.
Unique Ankle Injury Treatment
So what is tightrope surgery, and did it have a hand in Tua’s remarkable comeback? Tightrope surgery is a relatively novel technique that has been used to treat high-ankle sprains — also known as ankle syndesmosis — for the last decade. When high-ankle sprains happen, various ligaments inside the ankle are torn, causing the bones to pull apart and the ankle to become destabilized. Through tightrope surgery, a skilled orthopedic surgeon places a strong non-absorbable suture or “rope” above the ankle. Brackets on either end of the rope then attach to bones within the joint, holding them together and stabilizing the ankle.
Texas Orthopedics’ Dr. Kris Stockton and Dr. Brannan Smoot have been using this technique to help active adults recover from their injury and have been very satisfied with the outcomes.
The advanced surgical technique allows for a much better long-term outcome, with fewer obstacles down the road than seen with previous techniques, explained Dr. Stockton. Tightrope surgery also allows for more efficient rehabilitation following surgery, making high-ankle sprains a much less debilitating injury especially for athletes like Tua.
Season Ending Hip Injury
While Tua and most athletes can often recover quickly from a high ankle sprain, the kind of hip injury suffered will take longer to heal. Dr. John McDonald, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon on the Texas Orthopedics’ “hip specialty” team, a hip fracture is a very painful injury and requires surgery and ample time to recover.
Recovery means several weeks or months of low-weight bearing exercises, followed by a process of gradual mobilization. Some patients’, particularly athletes like Tua, progress well and are able to return to the football field follow sufficient therapy and rest, explained Dr. McDonald.
But, he says, all should follow a strict regimen overseen by a seasoned, comprehensive orthopedic program.
“Our golden rule is ample and appropriate recovery”, said Dr. McDonald. “Returning to activities too soon, which includes gradually adding weight bearing exercises and physical therapy, puts you more at risk for re-injury and the next one will likely be more serious.”