The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

NCAA News: Rawle Alkins Suffers Recurring Pain After Bone Repair Surgery

Posted by on Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

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Recovery from bone repair surgery is not always a straight line for high-level athletes. This truth is painfully evident in the story of Arizona Wildcats’ team leader, Rawle Alkins, a starting guard originally from our very own backyard of Brooklyn, New York. He’s appeared in fits and spurts since fracturing his foot back in September. Some residual pain is not unusual for a patient six to 12 months down the road. Today, NYC podiatrists explore Alkins’ injury and discuss recovering from bone repair surgery.

Rawle Alkins injury
The Arizona Wildcats have lost a key player due to injury. Image Source: Wikimedia user INeverCry.

What Happened to Rawle Alkins?

On September 27th, the Arizona Wildcats announced that Rawle Alkins would be out “8-12 weeks” after the player sustained a fifth metatarsal fracture while “participating in voluntary activities” with the team Tuesday afternoon. He made the quick decision to undergo surgery the following day. A screw was inserted to stabilize the fractured bone. The projected timeline put him back in late November or late December. In the meantime, Alkins made the best of his injury. We loved the tweets of him powering around in style on a cool-looking scooter.

He returned to practice (with limitations on contact) in his 10th week of rehab. After missing nine games, Alkins came back December 16th to fully enjoy the team’s 89-73 win over New Mexico. He played eight more games but missed the January 17th win over UC-Berkeley. He played against Stanford on the 20th but then missed three more games. He popped back in to play against Washington on February 3rd, but UA Coach Sean Miller says he “doesn’t know” if this inconsistency is something they’ll be dealing with for the rest of the season.

Why Does Fracture Pain Come Back After Bone Repair Surgery?

The recurring pain was so bad, the team feared Alkins had re-fractured his foot or sustained a stress reaction. However, image scans confirmed that all was normal. “It’s foot soreness,” Coach Miller reported. “He doesn’t have a fracture of any kind. We’ve given him a CAT scan and MRI and an X-ray. His bone is healing. In some parts of it, it’s completely healed and in others, it’s good healing but when a player has a foot like his that’s been surgically repaired and he runs into some discomfort all of a sudden, you really just have to shut him down.” During these complete shutdowns, “he experiences a lot more comfort,” Miller adds. He is taking a conservative approach, stating he will only play Alkins if he registers a “0” in the 1-10 pain scale.

Soreness is the symptom, but there could be multiple causes:

  • Fatigue: It could be the fact that he was immobilized for a while and his stabilizing muscles are still weak.
  • Bruising: It could be that the bone bruise he sustained experienced some complications healing and is still deeply achy.
  • Hardware Irritation: It wouldn’t be at all uncommon for him to be experiencing an irritation of the fixation hardware site as the body continues to adjust to the foreign object inserted for stabilizing measures. Some players opt to have their screws and/or plates removed once the bone has healed, while others may experience no adverse effects and decide to leave them in.
  • Bone Remodeling: It could be part of the continuing remodeling process that can continue indefinitely. While adequate strength is usually achieved within three to six months, intense activity can trigger more remodeling in the foot, with inflammation, swelling, and pain the unfortunate sidekicks.

Next Steps in Recovering From Bone Repair Surgery

Rawle Alkins played 31 minutes without pain in the 78-75 loss at Washington on Saturday, February 3rd. However, he “wasn’t himself,” Coach Miller acknowledged after Alkins missed 10 out of 12 shots from the field. He said:

“It’s difficult when you miss practices, when you shut down and then you’re back, you have a minute-restriction…. In fairness, we’re really hoping he can hit his stride down the home stretch, but we’re playing through that. He hasn’t had any soreness from this past game which is a great sign. But I think we’re all looking forward to the day when he can be a part of what we do, and it certainly has to be frustrating for him with all that he’s gone through with his foot.”

Averaging 14.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.6 steals a game, Alkins has had a decent season, all things considered. He shoots 48% from the field and 35% from the three-point range. In his absence, All-American candidates Deandre Ayton and Allonzo Trier have been eager to take the scoring load. Sometimes, it takes a while to find your rhythm, all while exercising caution. We hope to see this young player make a resounding recovery to find his groove in his junior year season, if not the current one.

If you have any questions or concerns about a bone fracture in New York City, do not hesitate to contact The Center For Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine, your leading resource in all things foot, ankle, and sport injury.

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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.