The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

National Rugby League News: Shaun Johnson Ankle Injury Puts Warriors in Crisis

Posted by on Wednesday, August 5th, 2015


Though not terribly popular in the US, Americans are starting to warm up to rugby. A 2010 survey by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association found that rugby was the fastest-growing team sport in the country and last year saw viewership of the USA Sevens Rugby tournament on NBC soar to 1.23 million viewers.1 For those of you following the sport, the Auckland Warriors are in a precarious position, clinching the #8 spot on the NRL ladder at the moment; so to lose a key player like team captain Shaun Johnson with ankle injury “puts the team in crisis,” as one New Zealand  newspaper explained it.2

With six regular season games left to play without Johnson, it could be an uphill battle to qualify for the finals, according to “Almost always among the top two performers whenever the Warriors win, Johnson scores more points, sets up and makes more line breaks, and creates more tries than any other member of the Kiwi side,” commentators report.

Shaun Johnson is his team’s captain, so his injury comes as a big disappointment to his team. Image source: Wikimedia CC, naparazzi

What Happened To Shaun Johnson?

Fifteen minutes before half-time, Shaun Johnson made a solo run toward scoring position, but got his left ankle tangled up in a group of Manly Sea Eagles and went down with an awkward twist. At this point, his four-pointer had the teams tied up at 6-6 before the Sea Eagles piled on 20 unanswered points to win the game. “I can’t confirm anything, but it’s season-ending,” said Warriors coach Andrew McFadden after the game on Saturday, July 25th.4

Later, it was confirmed that Johnson required an emergency surgery to repair the damage. Scans revealed he had “fractured his fibula and suffered ligament damage,” which required the insertion of a plate and two syndesmotic screws.”It’s a huge disappointment for Shaun and for everyone involved with the club,” Coach McFadden said. “He faces a long recovery [estimated at 4-5 months], but he’ll have the best medical care available.” He adds that the team’s chances to maintain their spot in the finals “remains the same,” but others are doubtful, pointing out that the Warriors had been on track to finish in the top four, and now might miss out on finishing even in the top eight.

Prognosis For Surgical Ankle Injury Repair

The lateral malleolus fracture is the most common type of ankle fracture, involving the fibula bone at the ankle. Some cases can be treated non-operatively, but injuries involving the syndesmotic complex of ligaments require surgery to restore ankle stability. The syndesmotic ligaments are the high ankle stabilizers that become stretched or torn with rotational “twisting” injuries or any type of ankle fracture.

Potential complications for this type of surgery are the same as any other operation — reaction to anesthesia, infection, nerve damage, bleeding or blood clots. For syndesmosis surgery specifically, complications may include irritation or failure of the hardware, nonunion, delayed healing and the development of arthritis in the joint.5

Following surgery, the patient is kept non-weightbearing for six to eight weeks before progressing to a walking boot. Acute pain typically resolves in two or three weeks, but swelling and stiffness persist for many more months. Most patients will be able to resume light sports activity after four to six months. Usually orthopedic hardware stays in; but for this particular ankle fracture surgery, surgeons may recommend taking the screws between the fibula and tibula out to restore normal motion or alleviate residual pain once healing has taken place — most commonly at the nine-month mark.

Manhattan Ankle Fracture Treatment

If you or a loved one has sustained a recent ankle injury, there is no better place to seek treatment in Manhattan than The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Our team consists of compassionate, experienced board-certified podiatric surgeons and sports medicine doctors who are actively involved every step of the way, from a patient’s diagnosis and the selection of a treatment plan, to pain management and rehabilitation therapy. Contact us for more information.


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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.