Updated: Feb 24
Up to 20% of all sports-related injuries are related to ankle trauma and injury, including
sprained ankles. Sudden jolting, twisting or supination (also known as rolling outwards) can cause swelling, joint pain and damage to the ankle ligaments. This is quite common in sports where quick changes in direction occur often such as netball and soccer.
What is the best treatment for an ankle sprain?
Immediately after the injury, it is best to apply first aid and the use RICE.
R: Rest I: Ice C: Compression E: Elevation
Long term care of the injury will include restricted weight-bearing and rest. Poor management of the injury will result in increased swelling, pain and long-term disability. Avoid heat, weight-bearing and anything that promotes increased blood flow as this may increase swelling.
What can a physio do to help me? What about reccurring ankle sprains?
It is best to see a physio within 1 week of the injury occurring to start rehabilitation of your ankle, as this will help improve healing and function. As physiotherapists we can assess the damage and plan an exercise program suitable for mobilization and strengthening.
Continuation of the strength and conditioning with physiotherapist direction will help to prevent reccurring ankle sprains, as once an ankle has been sprained, there is a 75% chance that another ankle injury could occur, in particular within the first 6-12 months post-injury. This can be decreased with proper management of the injury.
How to manage the injury?
Partial weight-bearing should commence 24 hours after injury using the normal heel-to-gait, as this can help promote restoration of full range of motion. This can be done with the assistance of crutches, or while wearing strapping or a brace so to not exacerbate the injury.
Muscle conditioning exercises as well as active strengthening exercises should be commenced when tolerated, within 1-2 days of the injury.
You will eventually have functional exercises introduced into your management program, which will further help to strengthen and condition the ankle.
Returning to sport
We can advise on when it might be best to return to a sport, as it is important that functional exercises can be performed pain-free during and after activity. We may suggest specific taping or bracing for use during sport to support the injury.
I have long-term pain after I sprained my ankle, what can I do?
We would want to assess your ankle and ask what type of rehabilitation you did for your ankle at time of injury. There are a few things that could contribute to ongoing pain or dysfunction, so it is best to seek care from physiotherapists or your health care provider.
Sources: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/ankle-sprains. Brukner & Khan Clinical Sports Medicine.
Image: By Injurymap - https://www.injurymap.com/free-human-anatomy-illustrations, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=88007881