Detroit Lions center Frank Ragnow had been dealing with a nasty toe injury for the last two years, and it’s something he’ll likely have to deal with for the rest of his career. On Monday, he admitted the plan was to continue to take veteran rests off of practice for himself and called the condition “chronic.”
The turf toe injury caused him to miss 13 games in 2021, and while he only missed one game last year after injuring it again, he was consistently in pain throughout the year. He admitted the mental stress of having to deal with the injury was hard.
But this offseason, the Lions overhauled their player health and performance department, specifically hiring Brett Fischer, one of the most well-respected physical therapists in the business, who had worked with the Cardinals for the past 15 years and head athletic trainer Mike Sundeen, who was previous with the Broncos since 2014. The two have been instrumental in developing a plan to help maintain Ragnow’s health.
“I can’t say enough about Fisch, Mike,” Ragnow said. “I was in a dark place, I’m not going to lie, with this toe. They’ve been able to make me see the light. It’s been hands down a lot better, so I’m very grateful for them,”
Ragnow specifically credited Fisher, who has been working tirelessly to come up with rehab, prehab, and strength training to maintain the condition.
“He’s awesome, man. He tells me he thinks more about my toe than he does his wife sometimes, which is tough,” Ragnow said. “I feel bad about that, but he really puts forth his best effort every single day trying to think about how to put me in the best positions and I’m very, very grateful for that.
With a toe injury, there’s always a concern that it could impact other parts of the body. Ragnow explained how Fisher refers to the toe as the “foundation of the house.” So the work isn’t just about treating the toe and the pain, but making sure the ankle and knee aren’t impacted.
“Everything starts from the ground up,” Ragnow explained. “When something is off on the ground, it kind of works its way up, so just being proactive in everything we do with the foot, the ankle, the hip all the way up, to make sure it’s not inhibiting me in any other area.”
So far so good. Ragnow played every snap in the regular season opener, and—for the first time in three seasons—so did the rest of the starting lineup on the offensive line.
“It’s cool to be able to play with four freakshows like that,” Ragnow siad. “It makes my job a lot, a lot easier, especially on the interior having Jonah (Jackson) and Big V (Halapoulivaati Vaitai) by my side. Two animals.”
The Lions are seeing an unprecedented amount of hype surrounding them, especially after their win over the Kansas City Chiefs last Thursday. The offensive line, which many project as a top-five unit in the league, plays a big part in that optimism. And while the swelling of excitement is bigger than Ragnow can ever remember since entering the league in 2018, he does have one request for fans.
“The people tweeting at me, ‘I’ll donate you (my) toe,’ I’m okay. If you guys can put that out there, I don’t need anyone’s toe.”