A sprained ankle is one of the most common sports injuries and is also the most frequently re-injured. In the majority of cases the ankle rolls inwards (inversion) under the weight of the rest of the body, resulting in damage to the ligaments on the outside of the ankle.
Here you will find everything you need to know about diagnosing, treating and rehabilitating a sprained ankle for an effective and speedy recovery.
Pain is usually felt around the ankle joint itself although more specifically on the outside of the ankle where the damaged ligaments are located. Swelling or bruising may present immediately or may take up to 48 hours to develop (depending on the types of structures damaged and the severity of the sprain). It should also be noted that in milder cases, this may never appear at all.
Sprains are graded 1, 2 or 3 depending on their severity and a professional therapist will be able to tell you which grade of injury you have sustained after carrying out a full ankle assessment. This assessment will include a number of movement, muscle and ligament tests in order determine which structures have been injured and how badly.
Read more about ankle sprain symptoms and diagnosis.
Ankle sprains usually occur as a result of a sudden twisting or rolling action of the ankle and this can be from either contact (tackles) or non-contact situations. The most common structures that are damaged in sprained ankles are the lateral ligaments (which joint bone to bone) on the outside of the ankle, however tendons (join muscles to bone), muscles, nerves and bones can also be injured.
There are a number of causes of ankle sprains and these include poor proprioception, previous injury history and inappropriate footwear. In order to understand how how these injuries usually occur, it is important to know about the anatomy of the ankle joint in more detail.
Read more on the anatomy and causes of ankle injuries.
Sprained ankles can be treated to some extent at home however for a more effective and quicker recovery we recommend you see a professional therapist.
Home treatment starts by applying the PRICE principles (proteciton, rest, ice, compression and elevation). Apply a cold therapy and compression wrap to reduce pain, inflammation and swelling. Ice or cold therapy can be applied for 10 mins every hour initially reducing frequency as symptoms improve. Wear an ankle support to protect the injured ligaments and provice compression.
Taping is another treatment that can be used to both protect the injured ankle but also improve confidence following such an injury. Here at sportsinjuryclinic.net we show you simple steps on how to tape your ankle for both the recovery period and for when you return to sport.
This is then followed by a program of mobilising, strengthening and finally functional exercises. For a comprehensive rehabilitation program, we have compiled a step-by-step ankle sprain rehabilitation program that takes you from the initial injury through to full fitness.
One of the most important parts of ankle injury rehabilitation and also in preventing re-injuries is proprioception. It is essential that proprioception or balance / coordination exercises are performed to “fire” up the muscles around the ankle joint complex to prevent re-injuries from occurring.
Finally, if you choose to see a professional therapist to treat your ankle injury, he / she may choose to use electrotherapy such as ultrasound or sports massage to help stimulate healing and blood flow into the area.
Read more on treatment and rehabilitation of ankle sprains.
We have interviewed our resident expert Neal Reynolds about how to treat a sprained ankle and top tips for ankle rehabilitation.
One of our top tips is:
“People often say they have 'weak' ankles but in most cases they have ankles that are in fact “poor proprioceptively” and not weak at all. Proprioception is by far the most effective treatment for treating and is the secret to preventing re-injuries in ankle injuries.”
In addition to the ligament damage in ankle sprains, there may also be associated damage to tendons, the joint capsules, the bones, the cartilages, the nerves or other soft tissues. As mentioned before, severely sprained ankles result in complete or almost complete ruptures of the ligaments and may be associated with dislocations and fractures of the ankle bones.
Types of bone/joint injuries in ankle sprains
- An avulsion fracture
- Osteochondral lesions
- Ankle Fractures
To read more on possible complications and associated injuries for ankle sprains, click here.