Ankle sprains are one of the most common sports injuries. A sudden twist or landing on the foot awkwardly can overstretch and tear the supporting ligaments of the joint, causing pain and swelling. Ankle sprains commonly occur when the foot rolls in too far. This injury is particularly common in activities that require running, jumping & change of direction (such as basketball and netball).
- Swelling and bruising
- Pain in the ankle joint when trying to move it and when walking
Immediate treatment of an ankle sprain should include:
- Stop your activity and rest the injured joint.
- Use icepacks every two hours, applied for 15 minutes.
- Compress joint firmly with tape/ bandaging to help minimise the swelling
- Elevate the ankle above heart height whenever possible.
- Avoid exercise, heat, alcohol & massage in the first 48 hours, as these can exacerbate swelling.
If you are unable to take any weight on the foot, seek medical attention immediately. An x-ray may be needed to rule out a broken bone. If the pain has not improved after a day or so, it is best to see your physiotherapist.
Recurring ankle sprains can be caused by a number of factors including:
- Ligament scarring & excess looseness, as a result of previous ankle sprains
- Insufficient rehabilitation from previous sprains. This can lead to weak muscles surrounding the ankle and a decreased capacity to judge where your foot is in relation to your leg; this is called a proprioceptive deficit.
Physiotherapy & Rehabilitation
- Exercise programs to improve mobility of the joint.
- Exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the ankle.
- Advice on taping and ankle braces for use during activity.
- The use of wobble boards to encourage balance and improve proprioception.
Research shows that starting early rehabilitation after ankle sprain improves ankle function and early return to weight bearing activities. If persistent instability does not respond to physiotherapy, surgery may be considered.
Preventing ankle sprains
- Warm up prior to exercise – include movements that are specific to the sport.
- Wear supportive shoes appropriate to the sport.
- Consider ankle braces or tape, as directed by your physiotherapist.
- Take care when exercising on uneven or wet ground.