Kenneth Walker’s Foot Injury

Tom Christ, PT, DPT, OCS Avatar

Seattle’s backfield is banged up at the moment. On Sunday, rookie Kenneth Walker exited the game with what Pete Carrol describes as an “unusual injury” and that his foot got “jammed.” Carrol has never been reliable when discussing injuries, so let’s break down what Kenneth Walker’s foot injury could be.  

The Reports on KEnneth Walker’s Foot Injury

Initial reports are that Walker “jammed” his ankle. In addition to jamming his ankle, Carrol stated that it is an unusual injury as it is not a sprain and that the injury is inside the ankle. A typical sprain would be to the outside (most common) or middle portion of the ankle. When Carrol states inside, I believe he is referring to deep inside the joint where the tibia bone of the shin meets the talus bone of the foot.  

Subsequent reports state that Kenneth Walker’s foot injury is a strain. By definition, a strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon, whereas a sprain is an injury to a ligament.

Walker underwent an MRI, which showed inflammation in the joint. If any more damage had occurred, this would have been reported. Inflammation can occur for many reasons, but inflammation is the only finding is good prognostically.

Common foot and ankle injuries

By far, the most common foot and ankle injury is a lateral ankle sprain. A lateral ankle sprain is an injury to any of the ligaments on the outside of the ankle joint, including the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL), calcaneofibular ligament (CFL), and posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL). With lateral ankle sprains running backs average missing 1.3 games. Carrol’s vague reporting made it clear this was not Kenneth Walker’s foot injury.

Kenneth Walker's Foot Injury

A high ankle sprain is another common foot and ankle injury. This is an injury to the ligaments that hold the tibia and fibula bones together on top of the talus bone to form the ankle joint. The ligaments holding these bones together include the anterior inferior talofibular ligament (AiTFL), the posterior inferior talofibular ligament (PiTFL), and the interosseous membrane. Running backs average missing 2.3 games due to a high ankle sprain. Again, Carrol’s reporting makes it clear this is not the Seahawk’s running backs injury.

Kenneth Walker's Foot Injury

Various foot and ankle fractures can occur. These always lead to significant time missed. This is not what Walker’s foot injury is.

The Lisfranc injury was made famous by Travis Etienne last season, and now fantasy players are terrified of that term. A Lisfranc injury is an injury to the bones or ligaments of the midfoot and has a wide spectrum of severity and time missed. This does not appear to be consistent with Kenneth Walker’s foot injury reporting.

What Kenneth Walker’s foot injury most likely is

With the above-listed injuries ruled out, what can we make of this injury? The term “jammed” and “strain” give me a reason to believe Walker is dealing with an ankle impingement of the extensor digitorum longus (EDL) or extensor hallucis longus (EHL) muscles and possibly a bone bruise of the talus.  

Kenneth Walker's Foot Injury
The extensor digitorum longus (EDL) and extensor hallucis longus (EHL) are shown on the left

The “jammed” makes me believe that walkers talus bone was jammed upward into the tibia. This could create a bone bruise, and we know that the MRI shows inflammation. The “strain” indicates injury to a muscle or tendon. The EDL and EHL tendons course right over the front of the ankle joint. When the ankle gets jammed, sometimes, these tendons get pinched between the talus and the tibia. A forceful pinching of these tendons could create a strain and subsequent inflammation.  

My theory of ankle impingement is supported by Ian Rapoport’s reporting that the injury is to the “top of his ankle”. As you can see from the muscle picture above, the EDL and EHL run along the top of the ankle.

Will Kenneth Waler’s Foot injury impact his production?

Will this impact his game if Walker is dealing with an ankle impingement and/or bone bruise? The EHL and EDL muscles move the foot and ankle upward and control pronation and supination to some degree. The upward motion of the foot and ankle must occur when running to clear the foot; however, unless there is a serious injury to these muscles or their related nerve, no issue is expected.

A bone bruise would cause pain and swelling. Pain and swelling inhibit function, as we naturally avoid pain. If a bone bruise is present, Seattle’s medical staff must work to mitigate these factors. If pain and swelling are manageable, he should be able to play.

Photo courtesy of Instagram @Kenneth_Walker9

Unless there is more information that Seattle is not reporting (definitely possible), I find it hard to imagine this injury impacting Walker going forward. He may be dealing with pain and swelling in the short term that could affect his week 14 outlook, but rest-of-season he should quickly return to 100%. In some cases, ankle impingements can be recurrent. Treatments are based on improving mobility and overall ankle strength and stability. Additionally, Walker will likely be taped up or utilizing a brace for additional support.

Of course, fantasy players will want to monitor his practice activity all week. But as of this writing, the current reporting does not suggest this is a significant injury. 

4 thoughts on “Kenneth Walker’s Foot Injury”

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