ProFootball Doc: LeBron James Makes a Shocking Statement About His Ankle

After just returning from a high ankle sprain, LeBron James said something that I have never heard an elite athlete admit.

“It’s impossible. I don’t think I will ever get back to 100 percent in my career.”

In my two-plus decades of professional sports and dealing with and treating high level superstars, I have never heard such a defeatist statement come from such a dominant athlete. To be clear, I have always been in awe of James and his on-court accomplishments, and my thoughts are not meant to be critical. My observation is that this statement runs counter to how other top athletes have handled injury and aging. They typically speak in terms of achieving the impossible.

No question that high ankle sprains are tough to deal with. However, I am still surprised at the frustration expressed with the admission that James was “more stressed” than ever over the recovery. Not to mention his medical conclusion about high ankle sprain is not accurate.

Most athletes do return to 100% after high ankle sprains. Admittedly high ankle sprains are much more common in football than basketball. NFL superstars Patrick Mahomes, Christian McCaffrey, Michael Thomas and Saquon Barkley have all suffered recent high ankle sprains, but we have not heard comments about never being able to get back to 100% and they all have returned to original form. I hope this is nothing more than just frustration from a tough injury. If for some reason James has undisclosed associated articular cartilage damage to his ankle, that would be a different story.

What strikes me as odd is that dominant athletes like James typically tend to err the other way. I get that there is no way to turn back the clock, and James’ comments were more general. Athletes tend to deny injury and the effects of father time. They tend to claim to be 100% when they may not be, just to avoid showing weakness. They tend to show killer instinct and never admit to any shortcomings. I have never heard Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes cast doubt on their health. I don’t recall Michael Jordan of Kobe Bryant ever doing it. There is no way Tiger Woods’ back was anywhere near 100% (before the car crash and ankle/leg injury) as he had multiple surgeries and a fusion (resulting in loss of motion), yet we never heard that admission.

In my experience, it is not in the DNA of top athletes to think anyway but positive. They are wired to think about the possible, not impossible. Impossible is not even in their vocabulary.

Heck, Brady doesn’t admit to age issues or losing arm strength. You could call it mind over matter but that is part of what makes these special athletes superior. James previously has displayed that — but this seems to be a significant departure, and all of this makes his current admission even more unusual.

Perhaps the quote was taken out of context. Maybe James will clarify what he meant. Perhaps his admission is the way he drives himself to work harder. Even if the reality is that one can’t go back to being 21, James at age 36 can get back to his immediate pre-injury form. I hope and expect him to return to 100%.

Written by Dr. David Chao

David Chao, MD -- known digitally as Pro Football Doc -- is an expert contributor for Outkick. Chao spent 17 seasons as the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers (1997-2013) and is part of the medical team at OASIS in San Diego where he treats and specializes in orthopedic sports injuries, working with high-profile professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB.


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  1. I am not surprised that he takes the “woke” victim mentality. It helps him relate to all the other “victims” he associates with outside of the NBA. If you can not perform then stop taking the Lakers money.

  2. Good observation. That is odd. I think he’s fishing for pity after saying some not-so-bright things about police. Since he can’t point at another person to blame to reposition himself as the billionaire victim, I suppose he’s going to blame his own body for oppressing him. This also gives him subtle storyline angle to insinuate he could have done more “if only”. It’s kind of ridiculous. In reality, the guy has been blessed to avoid any serious injury in his career, which is the main reason why he’s had the career he has. The worst he’s had are sprains and pulls to my recollection. It helps being a total beast too, so for him to say he’s physically hindered is just absurd. The irony is that he’s actually very fortunate to be in as good of health as he is at his age.

  3. He’s seen how well it works when Joe Biden lowers the bar of expectations to near ground level, then surpasses it. We’re supposed to put James’ performances in forever context of this injury, thus making anything he does from now on heroic.

    Or he’s about to blame some phantom white cop for forever rendering him less than 100%.

  4. Le CryBaby speaks, Le Pepe Le Pew stinks. I fear western civilization is at risk if Le Fraud has a sore foot. Give me a break. I am not even fond of the horse he rode in on. Le Moron leave us sane people alone. No one cares about you, your foot, or the mouth it resides in.

  5. LeFraud is playing that victim card again…like that wrist brace after the NBA finals when he was in the L category. Or that spray paint art allegedly on his house that nobody ever saw. Or making an ignorant statement about the police and then claiming it was hate when he got the consequences from it.

  6. James is a woeful and pathetic human being just awful his conduct toward police and his coddling of a tyrannical horrific chicom govt not to mention his racist attitude his ankle is the least of his problems.

  7. Brilliant observation Pro Football Doc.

    LBJ seems to need drama where its not needed.

    most lifelong non pro athletes deal with injuries and limitations. what makes sports mesh with the rest of human existence is its ability to convince the mind, that it can overcome when the body cannot.

    MJ lost some of his hops in his second stint at the bulls. he changed his game and was deadly.

    John Elway clearly burned up his knees before he won two super bowls. he adjusted with his mind and arm.

    Lebron is doing something i have only seen weak people do; lower the bar. He is a physical freak that has ZERO vices – Not One – According to Media.

    high ankle sprain is bad news, so work on something new in your game or retire. i hope he retires.

  8. Kobe once played with a hyperextended knee and sprained ankle….then tore his Achilles and sunk two free throws before walking off the court. This imbecile has to be carried off the court with cramps.

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