03/19/2014 08:45 am ET Updated May 19, 2014

Is Cam Newton Having Ankle Instability Surgery?

As a New York Reconstructive Foot Surgeon, I want to offer some perspective on Cam Newton's "minor ankle surgery." According to Cam Newton is having surgery to "tighten ankle ligaments" -- but what does that really mean?

It would seem that Cam has a condition called Ankle Instability, where the ligaments of the ankle are no longer able to keep the ankle functionally steady with the foot. Of course there are varying degrees of instability and symptoms -- but commonly results in pain, swelling and/or recurrent ankle sprains.

It is no secret that Cam has been dealing with a sore ankle after "rolling it" in December. While it may have been a typical ankle sprain, it hasn't healed up to a degree that he requires to perform. Therefore he has opted to go under the knife.

What Surgery Is Performed For Ankle Instability?

Depending on the severity and duration of the ankle instability, the surgery varies, as does the recovery.

Longstanding instability with major ligament weakness can involve a complicated reconstruction with major bone work and tendon transfers -- a surgery I liken to an ACL repair of the foot and ankle. Fortunately that is not the case with Cam Newton, at least at this juncture.

Being that Cam is said to have a minor ankle ligament tightening surgery indicates that he will likely undergo a repair of the lateral ankle ligaments, which are the supporting ligaments on the outside of the ankle. It's highly uncommon to have ligament surgery on the inside of the ankle.

The most common ankle instability surgery involves an uncomplicated procedure to tighten or reef up these loose or nonfunctional ligaments.Surgeons can remove a section of a ligament if they are too long and stretched out. In some cases ligament alternatives and/or stem cell augmentation can be used. Bone work is not routinely necessary for minor and simple cases, and the repair is performed with very strong suture.

What Is The Prognosis After Ankle Instability Surgery?

Surgery for minor ankle instability tends to be a highly successful surgery in the high level athlete (such as Cam) as well as in the average Joe. It generally takes 6-8 weeks for ankle ligaments to heal with surgery, and, of course, physical therapy thereafter. He is predicted to be out four months recovering, but will be a small price to pay to get this ankle steady again.

The good news for Cam is that this foot and ankle surgery will likely be a blip.

Dr. Neal Blitz
New York City

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