Athletic trainers thrive out of the spotlight, rarely gaining recognition for their efforts and never wanting it. So it was noteworthy when Chiefs vice president of sports medicine and performance, Rick Burkholder, took to Twitter to shout out the person most responsible for helping Patrick Mahomes play through his high ankle sprain.
That would be Julie Frymyer, who acknowledged she did receive countless texts and calls after Mahomes retweeted, adding, “Julie WAS the reason I was the guy I was on the field today!”
“I very much appreciate that he did it,” Frymyer told NFL.com on Super Bowl LVII Opening Night. “But the biggest highlight I could ever have was his scramble on that third down and getting us into the Super Bowl. I don’t need all of that as long as he’s able to go out there and do what he needs to do. That’s more than I would ever need.”
When Mahomes rumbled for nine yards on a bad ankle in the final minute of the AFC Championship Game, which included a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness by Joseph Ossai, it sent Kansas City and the soon-to-be MVP into today’s game against the Eagles. But for Frymyer and Mahomes, it was the culmination of a long, long, long week of work.
Mahomes suffered the injury on Jan. 21 against the Jaguars when Arden Key fell on his ankle trying to sack him. X-Rays were negative, but sources say Mahomes suffered a low Grade 2 high ankle sprain. Frymyer would not confirm the grade.
But she did discuss the incredible amount of hours Mahomes spent with her rehabbing.
“He comes in at 6 a.m. and he won’t leave until 6:30 p.m.,” said the assistant athletic trainer and physical therapist. “A lot of hours. He’s in meetings a lot of the time, so he would come in super early, we had to capitalize on the time he had. I’d take some of it up to his QB meeting room so we could keep treating him around the clock. Obviously, we had practice then and getting him back in after, getting him in for treatment, then getting rehab in as well.”
Mahomes has answered countless questions this week about his ankle, saying he’s improving every day, but, “You won’t know exactly how it is until you get to game day. I definitely move around better than I was moving last week or two weeks ago.”
Initially the injury caused quite a scare. Frymyer said her first thoughts turned to, “What are we going to do, we have this much time.”
Mahomes had his MRI done that Saturday night after the win over Jacksonville and began rehab right then — that night. They had the extra day, which helped. And he started running the next day, which was also a good sign.
She said high ankle sprains don’t typically swell much, and Mahomes’ was no different. He also wasn’t in a boot because if possible — as an athletic training staff — they try to avoid boots. He was walking normal and didn’t need it.
“If someone has to, we’ll give them a boot,” she said. “But the big thing is, if someone can walk with a normal gait pattern, we want them to do that. If they’re limping and not able to use their normal gait then we’ll give them a boot. We don’t want to get into hip, knee problems.”
By the next day, it became clear Mahomes had a chance. The optimism came quick.
“With Patrick, he’s got the mentality you know he’s going to play if he can play,” she said. “So we’re doing everything we can to put him in the best position. He attacks rehab and treatment just like he attacks everything with football. We knew he had a shot.”
That led to countless hours with Mahomes, working at almost every possible second. He played and won against the Bengals on Jan. 29 and will play today. He’s not 100%, which is obvious. But they believe he’s more than good enough.
“He’s made progress every day,” Frymyer said. “High ankle sprains can take a while to come back. So his tissue is not completely healed but he’s better than he was for sure. Every day he’s making progress, every day he’s feeling better and more normal. You can see it on the football field.”
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