It’s not that Rory McIlroy doesn’t want to defend his title, it’s that he is physically unable to. During the July 4th weekend, McIlroy was playing a light game of soccer with his friends and sustained a total rupture of the anterior talofibular ligament in his left ankle.

Rory pictures

Rory has taken to social media keeping all of his fans posted on his injury.

Not only will he miss the Bridgestone Invitational, but also the bigger question is if he will return in time to defend his PGA Championship title starting August 13th. With the PGA Championship being the final Master of the golf season, could Rory’s season be over or will he repeat last year’s success? Was it the best idea for Rory to have a casual kick around with his friends so close to a Master? Probably not, but injury can occur to even the greatest of athletes. So what exactly did the world’s number one golfer do to his ankle and should we be worried?
Rory’s managed to completely rupture the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) in his left ankle. “The ATFL connects the talus (ankle) bone to the anterior (front) fibula. It’s one of the weakest and most commonly injured ligaments in the ankle,” (1). With the two bones virtually not being attached there is instability where the ligament was previously living. The ATFL “provides anterior stability to the ankle joint, especially during plantarflexion of the foot,” (2). Anterior stability is provided at the front of the foot and helps with posture and proper body weight distribution. Plantarflexion is the extension of the ankle that points the foot/toes downward away from the leg. Injury to the ATFL makes basic functions difficult, especially during sport.
Pictures of Rory surfaces of his foot immobilized in a boot while bearing crutched following the July 4th weekend. Recovery time from a complete rupture could be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. The injury can be treated surgically, but also it can be treated with vigorous physical therapy. Since the PGA Championship is only a month away from the time he was injured, Rory chose to bypass the surgery and started his therapy immediately.
With no time to waste before the Open Championship, Rory’s rehab will need to be targeted and specific. A powerful and accurate golf swing demands fine control of the joints. Rory has to make sure his ankle can withstand the transfer of weight from one leg to the other during his follow through. Since an unstable ankle will also affect his lower leg, hip and abdomen, he has more to focus on than just his ankle. “His rehab will involve a lot of lateral knee, hip and abdominal stability work to account for the kink in the chain,” (3).
Rory is the type of golfer that gains power by leveraging himself against the ground with his right foot in the backstroke of his swing. His left ankle will bear little to no weight and pressure during that motion, but when he transitions to the down swing, a mass of pressure is transferred into his left ankle. “His left ankle stays planted and he rotates powerfully through his hips, spine and shoulders. His left ankle needs to be very stable and strong in order to resist these forces and facilitate a powerful (and accurate) golf swing,” (3).
If Rory doesn’t completely trust his ankle and has the slightest bit of pain, it might affect his overall performance. Will he chose to adjust his swing before the open? Or will we see his subconscious adjust his swing to adhere to any pain for him?
Will playing through injury be worth it? Or will sitting out of the last Major of the season be more beneficial to his health and performance in the long run? What are your thoughts?

  1. “Anterior Talofibular Ligament.” Anterior Talofibular Ligament Function, Anatomy & Diagram. 8 Apr. 2015. Web. 31 July 2015.
  2. Bowman, Jeffery. “A Guide To Treating Acute And Chronic Lateral Ankle Injuries.” Podiatry Today. 23 Jan. 2014. Web. 31 July 2015.
  3. Domhnaill, Fox. “What exactly is Rory McIlroy’s injury – and how is it going to affect his golf game?” The 42. 8 July. 2015. Web. 31 July 2015.