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Covering sports injuries from the perspective of a certified athletic trainer and backed by analytics.

Understanding Reggie Jackson’s Grade 3 Ankle Sprain

2017 is ending and the list of injured NBA players continues to rise. The 2016-17 season began in ominous fashion with Boston’s Gordon Hayward and Brooklyn’s Jeremy Lin both suffering season-ending injuries in their team’s first outing. The upward tick of man games lost to injuries has sustained as the season has progressed with the total number of games lost to the injury up nearly 18 percent from last year though 20 games for each team.

Ankle sprains remain one of the most impactful injuries, though the jump from last season is significant. Both the number of incidents and the resulting lost games are higher than in previous years with the man games lost outpacing the last five seasons. The list of players to miss extended stretches with ankle-related injuries includes two former MVPs in Stephen Curry and Derrick Rose and up-and-coming talent like Glen Robinson III and Jonathan Isaac. The list is set to grow by one with news coming out that Pistons guard Reggie Jackson is expected to miss an extended period of time after sustaining a Grade 3 ankle sprain in Tuesday’s win over the Pacers.

Because of the high frequency of ankle injuries in the NBA, InStreetClothes.com has previously created an ankle primer to explain the makeup of the joint and the varying injuries that can occur. However, let’s do a quick review of Jackson’s injury.

When Jackson landed, his right ankle was violently forced into inversion. This mechanism of injury applied stress to the lateral (outside) aspect of his ankle joint, pushing the stabilizing ligaments in the area beyond their yield point, resulting in a sprain.

Ligaments are viscoelastic, meaning they provide mobility and stability. However, each ligament of the body has unique yield and failure points. A Grade 3 classification means the structural integrity of the ligament was compromised. Individuals suffering this level of injury usually experiences significant pain and a loss of function and stability. Grade 3 sprains generally require a considerable recovery time and, in some cases, surgery.

The injury could also have long-term ramifications as the strength and integrity of the involved ligament or ligaments remain forever changed. Consider a rubber band. When a rubber band is fresh from the package it is stretchy yet strong and performs its job well. However, as it is repeatedly used, the rubber band conitnually moves past its yield point. The once strong rubber band decreases in strength and efficiency while losing its elasticity. A sprained ligament acts in similarly. Once a ligament has been pushed beyond its yield point, its physical makeup remains effected. Various treatments and rehab protocols can return the ankle close to its original state though it will never be 100 percent. Furthermore, once an ankle has been sprained it remains more susceptible to re-injury. In Miami, Dion Waiters is becoming all too familiar with this concept as he is reportedly considering offseason surgery on his chronically problematic left ankle.

Surgery does not currently appear to be on the table for Jackson. Instead the Pistons plan to reevaluate his status in six-to-eight weeks. Veteran guard Ish Smith is expected to take Jackson’s place in the starting lineup.

Fortunately, Jackson’s recovery will be handled by a Detroit medical staff that has had sustained success since 2005-06. Led by Jon Ishop, the Pistons have again been one of the healthier teams in the NBA as just two teams, the Warriors and Thunder, missed fewer games to injury during the league’s first quarter.