Swift Recovery from High Ankle Surgery: Two High School Football Players’ Stories

Jaylon Sanderfer

Jaylon Sanderfer and Evan Schwarzl were essential players on their respective high school football teams. They also were hoping to continue playing football in college. Yet, high ankle sprain injuries threatened to sideline them, risking them missing out on critical experiences in their senior high school year.

“Normally, a player would be out for the season following high ankle surgery.” — Head Coach Gary Rankin

Jaylon Sanderfer was enjoying playing football his senior year at Boyd Buchanan High School until he tried to jump over a player during a mid-season game. “The opponent got a hold of my right ankle. When I came down, I felt the crack. It was very painful, and I knew something was wrong.”

He was limping but stayed in for another play. “I got up and scored. But later, I tried to go back on the field and couldn’t.” His ankle continued to swell despite icing, elevating, and resting it. He sought medical care and found out he had torn all three ligaments in his ankle.

“I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to play high school football again.” — Jaylon Sanderfer

Boyd Buchanan High School Head Coach Gary Rankin was devastated. “Jaylon was a key member of our squad. I didn’t think he could return after that serious of an injury.”

Evan Schwarzl

Evan Schwarzl, quarterback for Walker Valley High School, was completing a drill in spring practice in preparation for his senior year when his ankle injury happened. “I felt a pop.” Evan tried to keep playing. But, he later rested his ankle, hoping it would get better.

“I noticed my ankle was more swollen and discolored with bruising down the side of my foot days later. I realized this was serious.” — Evan Schwarzl

However, a medical evaluation confirmed that he also had torn all three ligaments in his right ankle.

Surgery and Recovery: “You’re in safe hands with Dr. Wamack and the Sports Medicine Team.” — Jaylon Sanderfer

Jaylon and his family sought care for his high ankle injury from Dr. Jason Wamack, a foot and ankle specialist at Center for Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics. Dr. Wamack recommended tightrope surgery, which typically includes a faster recovery than other methods. This gave Jaylon a chance to return to playing football before the end of the season.

While Head Coach Gary Rankin had heard of tightrope surgery, he didn’t think it would happen at the high school level. “Honestly, we just wanted Jaylon to be healthy again.”

Following his injury, Evan and his family were torn between having high ankle surgery or not. Evan’s head coach, Drew Akins, told him about Dr. Wamack. “We met with Dr. Wamack, who explained everything to me.” After the meeting, Evan decided surgery was his best option because it would help reduce the risk of reinjuring his ankle.

Both players acknowledged that the recovery process was harder emotionally than they expected. For Evan, his recovery occurred during the summer before his senior year. “I wanted to be out hanging with my friends.”

Yet, both players are grateful that they had the surgery. “It was a great investment in myself,” said Evan. “My senior year now wasn’t in question. I got back to normal and feel blessed to be able to play.”

During recovery after the surgery, both players also appreciated the support from Dr. Wamack and his team. “They helped me know my limits, made sure I was doing the exercises right, and pushed me when I needed it,” said Evan.

For Jaylon, his concerns that he wouldn’t heal in time to return before the season ended weighed on him. “At one point, I wondered if it was even worth it. But Dr. Wamack told me I would get better, which helped.”

Jaylon ultimately realized he would be able to return in time when the physical therapist told him to start jogging as part of his therapy. “Dr. Wamack and the staff supported me the whole time.”

Post-recovery: “I have zero concerns about my ankle.” — Jaylon Sanderfer

About five weeks after tightrope surgery to repair his high ankle sprain, Jaylon was cleared to play. “Jaylon’s first game back was emotional for all of us. It was special,” said Head Coach Rankin.

Jaylon returned in time to play in the state semifinals. “It felt like my whole world just lit up,” said Jaylon. Initially, Jaylon only played defense, even though he played as a linebacker and running back prior to his injury.

But late in the third quarter, Jaylon asked to put on offense. “I told myself the first time I touch the ball, I will score. And I did! It was the craziest feeling doing that.”

Jaylon went on to score three times in that game, helping his team to victory.

“It was a gift to be able to return to playing my senior year and make it to the state championships as a team,” says Jaylon, who will attend Carson Newman University and join the football team.

Head Coach Rankin appreciated the care and communication by Dr. Wamack and the Center of Sports Medicine team. “I would recommend Dr. Wamack to treat anyone. He did a phenomenal job getting Jaylon ready and ensuring Jaylon was safe and ready to return.”

“I was back to playing very quickly.” — Evan Schwarzl

Evan was cleared to resume some quarterback activities four weeks post-surgery and was fully healed in time for his senior year. “Working with Dr. Womack was a great experience. My ankle doesn’t bother me. The surgery and recovery have made me confident in my ankle.”

The Walker Valley High School football team reached the semifinals and went 11-3 for the season, making it one of the best seasons in the school’s history. Evan was an All-State Region MVP and will attend Bethel University and join the football team.

“I’m blessed to be able to extend my football career.”

If you have a high ankle injury that’s not improving with non-surgical treatments or need surgery to heal, call (423) 624-2969 today to schedule an appointment with one of CSMO’s foot and ankle specialists.

We will help you heal, recover, and get back to the activities you enjoy.

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