Expert explains LeBron’s left ankle injury vs the Pelicans

Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar LeBron James turned his left ankle vs the New Orleans Pelicans and even though he was able to play on – which almost assuredly rules out a fracture – was clearly limited in the 2nd half – missing his normal burst on both ends of the floor. Following the game, LeBron walked gingerly into his post-game presser with a wrap on the ankle and said “it felt horrible.” He missed the game vs the Mavericks – which I sincerely hope you didn’t spend any time watching – and is now out vs the Utah Jazz as well.

So what is the injury & how bad could it be?

Video review

Based on video review, this is very likely a left ankle inversion sprain that stresses the outer (lateral) ankle ligaments. 

Severity & Timeline

These injuries can evolve quickly in the early days and the diagnosis is based on multiple factors including swelling, pain, loss of function, manual testing, and imaging.

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There’s 3 grades of severity with grade 1 typically 7-10 days but you can push it for a day to day return, a grade 2 which is typically 3-4 weeks, and a  grade 3 full rupture which averages 4-6 weeks.

LeBron’s injury resilience is uncanny – a testament to the work and preparation he puts in – so he will push the pedal on any of those timelines, especially at this part of the season. Considering he wasn’t ruled out vs the Mavericks but he had significant soreness afterwards, I’d venture this is a higher grade 1 or potentially a grade 2 injury.

Is this like last year’s ankle sprain?

You might be wondering if this is like last season’s ankle injury. It’s not – that was a high ankle sprain which rolled in the opposite direction with rotation.

Risks of playing through?

There are certainly risks which include flaring up the ankle soreness into persistent discomfort, compensatory injury to other areas – especially since he’s now dealing with both the ankle and knee on the left side – and most significantly, a chance for turning the ankle again.

All in all, LeBron and his trainer Mike Mancias know his capacity extremely well and will make the responsible call. The way they’ve managed the knee soreness is a testament to that. I’ll keep you updated as we learn more.

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