The ankle injury that LSU star running back Leonard Fournette has dealt with for so much of the 2016 season is a chronic problem, one that will need constant maintenance or perhaps surgery in the future, a source tells SEC Country.
Fournette tweaked his ankle again last week vs. Arkansas, though he is expected to play on Saturday vs. Florida. Even the knowledge that Derrius Guice is coming off the best game of his career (252 yards and 2 TDs vs. Arkansas) probably doesn’t make interim coach Ed Orgeron feel much better about Fournette’s situation.
Fournette’s history with the ankle goes back beyond just this season. Chronic ankle sprains are not uncommon and often, they’re ignored by the athlete. If you play pickup hoops, you’ve probably rolled your ankle, cursed, hopped a couple times, then gone right back into the game. It’s much the same thing, but with every sprain, there’s a bit of damage.
Often, it’s just a bit of stretching, but like a rubber band, it stretches out over time, which makes it more likely to roll the next time. There may not even be much damage, since the stretched ligament isn’t overstressed, but the rest of the structure takes some load. Over time, it becomes a chronic problem.
A “loose ankle” is correctable, and in the short term, Fournette’s function can be restored. However, there is always at risk of a recurrence, like what we saw last week vs. the Razorbacks. The LSU medical staff will do everything it can, including taping and re-taping, to keep Fournette from doing any more damage.
In the longer term, surgery is an option. The surgery is a simple “tightening” of the ligament, getting the right tension into the ankle to hold it in proper position. The downside is that it’s tough to judge exactly what that is since players tend to have damaged both ankles over time, even if the damage is more one-sided in notice.
NFL scouts have told me Fournette that his medical check at the Combine in February is going to go a long way in determining his draft position. There’s no question about the talent, but if Fournette is going to have these same issues, he may look to have it fixed earlier rather than later, giving him plenty of time to heal before training camp.
Fournette’s 803 rushing yards rank 10th in the SEC, despite the fact that he has missed three games because of his ankle injury. He rushed for a career-high 284 yards on Oct. 22 vs. Ole Miss.