IOWA CITY -- The hard part isn't the ice, the electric stimulation, the ultrasounds, the taping, the running in the pool and, basically, the full-time job that is a sprained ankle.
The hard part of Mark Weisman is that second when he really tests his right ankle, arguably the most important and, certainly, the most talked about body part of the 2012 Iowa football season.
Weisman left it all on the field at Michigan State on Oct. 13 when he crossed the goal line with the tying touchdown with 55 seconds left. He sprained the ankle on the 5-yard run, and the Hawkeyes (4-3, 2-1 Big Ten) weren't the same against Penn State last week, suffering the program's worst loss at Kinnick Stadium since a 31-7 defeat to the Nittany Lions in 1999.
After going for more than 100 yards in four straight games, Weisman was limited to five carries and 9 yards and the Hawkeyes, who travel to Northwestern (6-2, 2-2) on Saturday, were held to 20 rushing yards, their lowest in a game since minus-9 at Ohio State in 2005.
This week, who knows?
"If we get through this week without any reoccurences, then, hopefully, he'll be a week stronger," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "He really made a good comeback last week and played a little while, but there wasn't much in terms of holes being opened, that type of thing, so, the game got out of hand. We just thought it was best to get him out of there and I think he'll be fine."
Whatever happens with Weisman, who has 640 yards and eight TDs, and his health this week, it won't be for lack of trying to get the 6-0, 235-pounder healthy.
The treatment for a sprained ankle sounds like a full-time job.
"You do whatever you can," said Weisman, who had a brace on the ankle as he conducted interviews Tuesday inside Iowa's indoor practice facility. "You ice, stim [electric stimulation]. You do ultrasound. You do tons of stuff that I don't even know what it's called.
"You strengthen it, you run in the pool. You do whatever you can, as much as you can."
As always, injuries vary to the individual. Usually, any sport that involves pivoting and twisting should be avoided for at least two to three weeks. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, most ankle sprains need about four to six weeks to completely heal.
That makes the fact that Weisman saw the field at all last week, especially considering the fact that he's a running back in the Big Ten, nothing short of amazing or, depending how you look at it, hurried. He has been Iowa's most consistent performer on offense outside of the offensive line.
"It hurts a little bit, it was a little restrictive," he said after the game. "I wasn't being effective out there, so that's hurting the team more than helping it."
How much time has Weisman spent rehabbing that sprain? He doesn't even know, but he has taken his homework with him.
"You get in there whenever you can. No more naps," he said. "You do your homework in there. You do it while you're getting iced and stuff. You study with ice on and everything."
For the record, you can't do homework while you're running in a pool. ""No, you cannot do that," he said.
As you can imagine, Weisman, a walk-on who's enjoyed a mythic rise until the ankle, has been a model patient.
"It's a lot, but you have to do what you have to do to get better," he said. "You have to get the treatments that you have to get to, but the more, the better."
What do trainers and medical staff do for a sprained ankle?
Inflammation and swelling can be managed using electric muscle stimulation to encourage blood flow above and below the injured area to facilitate debris removal. In the early stages of healing, lasting 24 to 48 hours, stiumulation can be used for periods of up to 15 minutes to encourage controlled swelling at the ankle.
"You do that with the ice," Weisman said. "When we're icing, you get that on there. I don't really know all the science behind it."
You really want to get science-y? The therapeutic ultrasound is the application of high-frequency mechanical vibrations created by the conversion of electrical energy to sound waves. This ultrasound is typically applied at a frequency of either 1 or 3 megahertz, or MHz, depending on the depth of the target tissue.
For an ankle, you're looking at 3 MHz, according to Livestrong.com, anyway.
Weisman's breakdown brings it home a little better.
"I think that's just trying to get that inner heat of it," he said. "You heat it up and it's good to do before practice. Before we tape it up, we do that. Before meetings, you just go in and get that inner heat on it."
Sophomore running back Damon Bullock was medically cleared this week. He suffered a concussion against Northern Iowa on Sept. 15. He was set to return against Michigan State, but suffered a recurrence. Ferentz said he needed to get through practice this week and then his availability for Saturday would be determined.
Weisman's ankle probably hold the key to whether or not running backs Jordan Canzeri and Michael Malloy redshirt. Canzeri, who's coming back from a torn ACL suffered in March, was on the sideline at Michigan State. Both were in uniform last weekend.
"We’ll take it week by week, but they’re both working with the first and second groups and we’ll see how things go," Ferentz said. "It’s been a tough, tough area to predict."
Weisman's first test on the ankle was Tuesday's practice. The key words here are "wait and see.""I don't wait and see. If you do that, it's probably going to hurt," he said about an hour before the practice spin. "You can't be thinking about it. You've just got to go out there. If it hurts, it hurts. We'll just have to wait and see."