Yesterday we learned that De’Aaron Fox suffered a grade 3 ankle sprain during practice. The Sacramento Kings announced that Fox would be reevaluated in 3-4 weeks. But despite that optimistic-sounding timeline, it’s important that we approach this realistically. Fox will be reevaluated in 3 or 4 weeks, but that doesn’t mean that Fox will be ready to return. With the caveat that I am not a medical professional, let’s learn more about Fox’s injury.
How long will Fox be out?
Obviously we don’t know for sure. Ankles are a funny thing. He could recover quickly, or it could linger. But let’s look at some historical precedent in the NBA:
NBA players to suffer Grade 3 ankle sprains over the last few seasons include Reggie Jackson, Lonzo Ball, and Matthew Dellavedova. Average missed time? 33 games— Jeff Stotts (@InStreetClothes) November 12, 2019
33 games would put Fox out until late January. All-Star weekend is mid-February. If there’s any sort of minor setback, or if the team simply wants to err on the side of caution, Fox could easily be out until the All-Star break. If there are any setbacks along the way, the Kings could easily end up ruling Fox out for the year, although there’s no reason to expect that yet.
But it’s just a sprain, why would it take that long?
Sprain can be a misleading term. According to Harvard Medical School, a Grade 1 sprain signifies minimal stretching of the ligament, no tear. Grade 2 means a partial tear. Grade 3 is a full tear or rupture. Harvard describes a Grade 3 sprain as:
Severe pain, swelling, tenderness, and bruising. Considerable instability and loss of function and range of motion. Unable to bear weight or walk.
The normal expected recovery time for a Grade 3 sprain is “several months”.
So why are the Kings saying 3-4 weeks?
The Kings said that Fox would be reevaluated at that time. We can recall how last season Marvin Bagley III was regularly listed as being out with an injury where he would be “reevaluated in 1-2 weeks” and then at that reevaluation he’d be placed out for another couple weeks.
So why 3-4 weeks? Because that’s how long Fox will probably be in some sort of protective brace or air cast. After that they’ll evaluate to determine how the ligament is healing (if it is not healing, it could require surgery), and begin rehabbing, strengthening, and making sure Fox is full strength before returning to play.
The Kings are going to be cautious about providing any sort of specific timeline for Fox’s return. They’ll give vague timelines for reevaluation, not wanting to put undue pressure on Fox to be back by a certain date, and not wanting to panic fans if Fox misses an arbitrary deadline.
It sucks not knowing how long Fox will actually be out. We’ll hope the recovery is quick, but it’s best to mentally prepare for the recovery to be long.