The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

PGA News: Rory McIlroy Ankle Injury Knocks Him out of First Place

Posted by on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015


Anyone following professional golf knows who Rory McIlroy is. Last year, the 26-year-old from Northern Ireland swept the PGA Tour awards, winning the Arnold Palmer Award, PGA Player of the Year, PGA Tour Player of the Year, the Vardon Trophy, and the Byron Nelson Award. The great Jack Nicklaus called McIlroy “an unbelievable talent,” adding: “I love his swing, I love his rhythm, I love his moxie.”1 Nine-time Major winner Gary Player said Rory McIlroy “could turn out to be the best player in the world in his time” and the NY Times says McIlroy has “the best swing in golf.”2 There is even a video game named after him — EA Games’ Rory McIlroy PGA Tour (formerly known as the Tiger Woods PGA Tour). In 2015, he ranked 4th in the Masters Tournament, but his year was cut short by a severe left ankle injury.

ATFL injury
Rory McIlroy’s ATFL injury may have him out of competition for weeks. Image Source:

What Happened To Rory McIlroy?

Rory McIlroy withdrew from The Open in St. Andrews this July a little over a week after he reportedly “damaged his [left] ankle ligaments” while playing a friendly game of soccer with his pals. The damage was a total rupture of the ATFL, with associated joint capsule damage.3 Anterior Talofibular Ligament (ATFL) injuries are considered low ankle injuries, as the ATFL connects the end of the calf bone to the front ankle bone. The chief responsibility of the ATFL is to stabilize the ankle and shield it from excessive force.

Tears like this one represent one of the most common ligament injuries to occur, as the ATFL is the weakest in the ligament complex.4 Also, due to its location, it absorbs most of the shock from twisting injuries and awkwardly placed footing. At the very least, an overstretched ATFL involves three or four days of rest to recover.

McIlroy announced that he would be “taking a long term view of this injury” and added that “rehab is progressing well,” but said he wants to return to competition 100% healthy. McIlroy was so concerned about his injury that he even sent a text to Tiger Woods, asking for advice.5 Woods, who has suffered a number of injuries over the course of his career, reassured the young golfer that he was doing the right thing by “taking care of his body first.”

What’s The Prognosis For ATFL Injuries?

McIlroy was originally sighted wearing a large brace while having dinner with friends, but The Belfast Telegraph caught a glimpse of him wearing a lightweight ankle brace.6 As Golf Digest points out, “On average, those suffering an acute lateral ankle ligament rupture are constrained to a walking boot for three-to-six weeks following injury.”7 They hope to see McIlroy playing in the August 13th PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

There were jokes that McIlroy wouldn’t be back until January for the annual Abu Dhabi tournament, but he’s expected to return to competition much sooner.8 In the past, surgery to repair ruptured ligaments involved casting and no weight-bearing for six weeks, followed by physical therapy, for total recovery in three months. Today, we aim for initial treatment with rest, ice, compression, and elevation, along with a short period of immobilization with a brace, followed by six weeks of conservative management with early, controlled mobilization and rehabilitation therapy. Balance training on a tilt board after three to four weeks improves control and strength in the ankle. The prognosis is good with professional treatment — 70 to 90% of patients recover symptom-free. A small percentage of individuals have some residual stiffness, swelling, pain, or weakness.

Ankle Injury Treatment In NYC

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in New York City diagnoses and treats both amateur and professional athletes with ankle injuries. Whether you need acute emergency care or treatment for chronic pain and stiffness, our board-certified podiatrists and surgeons employ the latest treatments to improve your condition. We are experienced in use of platelet rich plasma, MLS pain lasers, extracorporeal shockwave therapy, biopuncture and other innovative therapies. Our surgeons have performed successful operations by the thousands. We believe in accurate diagnosis using the best tools in the trade and early, functional rehabilitation for positive long-term outcomes. Contact us to learn more.


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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.