published Friday, February 11th, 2011

UT's bad ankles still big concern

KNOXVILLE -- Chad Newman has seen plenty of sprained ankles over the course of his 15 years as a basketball trainer at Tennessee.

"Too many," the Chattanooga native joked after Thursday's practice. "We actually have been pretty lucky with in-season injuries over the years, [but] two in one week is a lot."

The Volunteers' two primary offensive threats sprained ankles three days apart last week. Freshman forward Tobias Harris rolled his 13 days ago in the second half of UT's win at Ole Miss, and guard Scotty Hopson then hurt his by coming down on a teammate's foot in practice.

Though Harris didn't miss any games and Hopson returned for Tuesday's loss at Kentucky after missing two games, the bum wheels deserve to be watched as UT (15-9, 5-4 SEC) heads down the season's final month toward the postseason.

"Everything depends on how intense or how severe they are," Newman said, "but when you get into a season, any ankle injury drags on if you're playing on it, 'cause you just don't have time to get fully 100 percent.

"A guy like Tobias, now he's about 11-12 days out and his feels really good. He has his moments -- he's still a little stiff -- but he feels a lot better."

Newman said most sprains require two weeks of management once the player returns to the court. The best solution is rest, a tall order in the middle of the season. But after three games in six days, the Vols took a much-needed day off Wednesday before Thursday's full-contact session with a game looming at Florida on Saturday.

Hopson, who scored 11 points Tuesday, did some running Thursday but couldn't go full speed. Coming off one his worst performances of the season, Harris was slightly limited. Both are expected to play Saturday.

"[Harris] looked to me like he really labored," coach Bruce Pearl said. "It's one thing to get that [ankle] back after the injury, but when you have all those practices and all those games, it's taking a pretty good hit."

"To not have Tobias and Scotty out here, two of our main offensive weapons, for the entire offensive portion of our practice, it's hard to get better when those guys are limited. No excuse, but it is."

The first priority for Newman and his staff is always the player's health, and the second is getting the player back to action as quickly as possible. The rehabs and exercises Newman employs usually are targeted toward what will translate on the court.

Although the type and intensity of rehab can help, ice and rest are the best ways of healing that nagging sprained ankle.

"I truly believe in a lot of rest," Newman said. "I like my kids to get home and get to bed and get sleep and get it elevated and keep it compressed.

"That's really important for me because there's nothing better than the human body to repair itself. It's better than what I can do, but I can help it along by finding ways to push that swelling out or work on that ligament that's sore.

"It's a balance that you do -- you've got to get both. During those daylight hours we get a lot of stuff done. It's not one thing that gets them better, but you try to put the right combination together, and hopefully it pays off.

"So far it has for both those guys to be able to get back on the court."

Follow our Vols beat writer Patrick Brown on Twitter by following this link.

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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