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Analyzing the Chiefs’ suddenly-long injury list

How several key injuries suffered by the Chiefs could impact the team moving forward.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs’ thrilling 30-27 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers came with its fair share of bumps and bruises. As the game progressed along, the injury updates continued to stream in, causing concern throughout Chiefs Kingdom.

Several Chiefs starters were lost to injury, this being after the Chiefs were already going into the game short-handed, with wide receivers Mecole Hardman (abdominal illness) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (concussion) out of action entirely.

Wide receiver Kadarius Toney, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, safety Juan Thornhill and rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson all missed portions of or the remainder of the game once injured. As always, more information is expected regarding these players’ availability once the team returns to the practice field on Wednesday.

Several of these players have injury histories, which could impact their timeline for returning to the field.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s high ankle sprain

Based on head coach Andy Reid’s comments in the post-game press conference, the high ankle sprain suffered by Edwards-Helaire in the first quarter has the potential to be the most significant of the Chiefs’ injuries.

“He’s a tough kid, but that doesn’t look good,” said Reid. “High ankle sprains on running backs aren’t always the best. We’ll see how he does in the recovery, but it’s pretty tender right now.”

Tennessee Titans v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Reid, who normally doesn’t provide much in the way of information regarding injuries immediately post-game, did not sound overly positive regarding Edwards-Helaire’s status.

He was correct, in that, “high ankle sprains for running backs aren’t always the best.”

The injury involves damage to the syndesmosis, which are the high ankle ligaments connecting the two lower leg bones: the fibula and tibia. There are two ligaments comprising the syndesmosis, as well as the interosseous membrane, which is essentially connective tissue between the two bones. All or some of these structures could have been damaged by Edwards-Helaire’s injury.

A high ankle sprain is differentiated from a common ankle sprain based on the location of the injury and the mechanism of injury. A high ankle sprain occurs most commonly with twisting or rotation injuries — when the foot is turned to the outside in relation to the leg. A high ankle sprain requires a longer period of time for healing and recovery than the more common lateral (low) ankle sprain.

Unfortunately, this is not Edwards-Helaire’s first go-around with ankle injuries. He missed time in the 2020 season following an ankle sprain, as well as the 2021 preseason with the same injury. If the most recent injury occurred on the same side as these previous injuries, it could further delay healing or complicate rehab.

Based on Reid’s post-game comments and the nature of this injury, Edwards-Helaire’s injury history, and the running back position — it’s expected for Edwards-Helaire’s recovery to take several weeks.

If the Chiefs determine he will be held out for a significant amount of time, he could be placed on the injured reserve, with offensive tackle Lucas Niang potentially ready to be elevated from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list following his rehab from a patellar tendon rupture.

Kadarius Toney’s notorious hamstring

Some Chiefs fans likely met Toney’s initial arrival to the team via trade with some hesitation, due to his injury history. The beginning of Toney’s young career with the New York Giants has been hampered by frequent injuries, playing in only 12 contests through his first two seasons prior to joining the Chiefs.

Toney’s career with the Chiefs began in an exciting fashion, with him providing an exciting speed element to the offense, and a spark the team needed. He assured fans that he was healthy, and Chiefs’ brass concurred. He recorded the first touchdown reception of his career in the 27-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Unfortunately, soft tissue injuries can be nagging and long-lasting, which appears to be the case for Toney. Toney missed Weeks 3-7 this season with a reported hamstring strain. Reid reported post-game that Toney’s hamstring “tightened up.”

Hopefully, for Toney and the Chiefs, it is just a “tightening up,” and not a re-aggravation of the strain, which could cause Toney to miss time as the Chiefs enter the late season push into the playoffs. This is not the first hamstring strain the Chiefs have dealt with in 2022, as cornerback Trent McDuffie was out for seven games with the injury.

It is possible Toney might miss some games to allow for more time to recoup so he is fully available for the playoff push.

Looking ahead

As a result of the hard-fought win over the Chargers, the Chiefs may be missing some key pieces as they prepare to face the 3-7 Los Angeles Rams. It’s expected that Edwards-Helaire will not be available, with a high level of likelihood Toney is out of practice this week.

Less is known regarding Thornhill and Watson’s reported injuries. Updates are expected from Reid as he has media availability throughout the week. Chiefs fans will also be monitoring the status of Smith-Schuster and cornerback Chris Lammons, who remain in concussion protocol from injuries suffered in Week 10.

It’s a season in which the Chiefs have certainly fought through adversity. Yet they remain in prime position for their seventh consecutive AFC West championship and control their own destiny in the race for the number one seed in the playoffs.

It may again be time for young players to step up and produce, as the Chiefs prepare to face the defending Super Bowl champions.

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