On this page:
- Sprained ankle rehab program
- Sprained ankle strengthening exercises
- Sprained ankle mobility exercises
Ankle sprains are some of the most common sports injuries, often recurring again and again. In most cases the ankle is rolled outwards, resulting in damage to the lateral ligaments on the outside of the ankle. This is known as an inversion ankle sprain.
A sprained ankle can be troublesome and cause long-term problems if not treated correctly. Other complications or injuries may occur at the time of a sprained ankle and not be noticed until much later. We explain ankle sprain symptoms to help you determine the extent of your injury, as well as information on treatment, exercises and tips on preventing ankle sprains.
Ankle sprain symptoms may vary from being very mild to severe. With a mild sprain the athlete will likely be able to continue with training or competition. A very sever injury will result in hospital treatment and take longer to heal than a broken ankle.
An ankle sprain will usually occur from a sudden trauma, twisting or turning over of the ankle. Pain will be felt in the ankle joint itself although pain will specifically be felt on the outside of the ankle when pressing in on the damaged ligaments. Swelling or bruising may be present but not always in the more mild cases.
Ankle sprains are graded 1,2 or 3 depending on severity and a professional therapist will carry out a full diagnosis and ankle sprain assessment which will include range of motion tests and resisted movement tests to determine the structures injured and extent of the damage. See ankle sprain diagnosis for more detailed information.
Ankle sprain recovery time will depend on how bad the injury is. Sprained ankles, as with all ligaments sprains, are diagnosed as grades 1, 2 or 3 depending on their severity:
Grade 1 ankle sprain symptoms:
Grade 2 sprained ankle symptoms:
Grade 3 sprain ankle sprain symptoms:
The most common is an inversion sprain or lateral ligament sprain where the ankle turns over so the sole of the foot faces inwards, damaging the ligaments and other soft tissues on the outside of the ankle.
An eversion ankle sprain is rare but can occur particularly with a fracture. This happens when the ankle rolls the other way, so the sole of the foot faces outwards, damaging the ligaments on the inside of the ankle.
The most common damage sustained in a sprained ankle is to the anterior talofibular ligament. This ligament, as the name suggests, connects the talus (ankle bone) with the fibula (smaller of the two bones in the lower leg).
If the sprain is severe there might also be damage to the calcaneofibular ligament which connects the heel bone to the fibula further back towards the heel. This ligament only becomes injured in more severe injuries due to its increased strength and laxity whilst the toes are pointed (a common position for ankle sprains).
In addition to the ligament damage there may also be damage to tendons, bone and other joint tissues, which is why it is important to get a professional to diagnose your ankle sprain. If possible an X-ray should be done, as small fractures or avulsion fractures where a tendon or ligament pulls a small piece of bone away are not uncommon. Osteochondral lesions (tears of the cartilage lining the top of the Talus) are also frequent complications of moderate to severe ankle sprains.
Severely sprained ankles, where there are complete ruptures of the anterior talofibular, calcaneofibular and posterior talofibular ligaments, result in dislocation of the ankle joint which are often associated with a fracture.
Treatment of a sprained ankle can be separated into immediate first aid and longer term ankle rehabilitation and ankle strengthening. When considering how to treat a sprained ankle the aims should be to reduce pain and swelling then restore full mobility and strength.
Immediate First Aid for a sprained ankle:
Aim to reduce the swelling by RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) as soon as possible.
Following the initial painful stage of a sprained ankle, there are other treatments that can help the ankle return to normal as soon as possible. Ankle sprain exercises such as can help to get the ankle moving again, as well as reducing swelling if performed with the leg elevated. In the early stages only exercises involving up and down movements which will not stress the ligaments should be done. See our ankle sprain rehabilitation program for more details.
A wobble board is an important part of rehabilitation of ankle sprains.
Ankle supports and braces are available from www.return2fitness.co.uk. They supply a wide range of supports suitable for all ankle sprains!