By now, anyone who follows sports knows that Gordon Hayward suffered a horrific-appearing left ankle injury only six minute into his Celtics career. The Celtics have since announced that he has a fractured ankle – from what I could see from the replays and pictures, he certainly seems to have suffered a fracture-dislocation, where the bones of the ankles are broken and the ankle joint itself subsequently dislocates. It is along the same spectrum of injury as an ankle fracture, but is usually due to a higher-energy mechanism (such as landing awkwardly from a height, as Hayward did), and usually results in a more severe injury than a simple mis-step or slight fall might cause. Most likely Hayward fractured both his tibia and fibula, and likely injured the syndesmosis, the ligament that connects the two bones at the ankle.
X-ray showing ankle fracture-dislocation
Hayward no doubt had his ankle reduced (provisionally put back in place) tonight in Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena and splinted or casted to hold it in place for the time being. Sometime in the next 7-14 days he will undergo surgery to definitively fix the fracture, resulting in a post-operative x-ray that will likely resemble this:
Post-operatively, he will be on crutches with limited weight-bearing for 6-12 weeks depending on the degree of the injury to the ligaments, specifically the syndesmosis. He may need to have some of the hardware removed at the 10-12 week mark, again depending on the degree of ligament injury. He will resume normal walking at that point, with no running for a couple months after, and jumping/more explosive activities likely at the 6-9 month mark depending on the degree of injury.
The most pressing question in Celtics fans’ minds tonight is – will Hayward be able to recover fully from this injury to be the player he was before? Without seeing his particular x-rays and given the variation in recoveries and rehabilitations from athlete to athlete it’s impossible to say at this early stage, but Celtics fans should be cautiously optimistic. While the injury was certainly horrific-appearing, these are the kinds of injuries which should allow for near-full to full recovery – Hayward’s fracture will no doubt heal, and if his leg responds well to his rehab, which is more likely than not, he should be back for next season. He may lose a little bit of explosiveness or quickness, especially in the short term, but I would look for him to return to the Celtics next season and hopefully have a long and productive career for the C’s.