Ankle sprain 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 ligaments on the outside of the ankle.
Symptoms & diagnosis
Symptoms may vary from being very mild to very severe. With a mild sprain the athlete will likely be able to continue with training or competition. A very sever injury could result in hospital treatment and take longer to heal than a broken ankle.
The injury usually occurs from a sudden trauma, twisting or turning over of the ankle. Pain will be felt in the ankle joint itself although 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. Pain can also be felt on the inside of the ankle from compression of bones and soft tissue.
Sprains are graded 1,2 or 3 depending on severity and a professional therapist will carry out a full diagnosis and assessments which will include range of motion tests and resisted movement tests to determine the structures injured and extent of the damage.
How bad is my ankle sprain?
Grade 1 symptoms will cause only mild pain with little or no instability. There may be some joint stiffness with difficulty walking or running but the athlete is likely to be able to play on. Some stretching or perhaps minor tearing of the lateral ankle ligaments may have happened resulting in mild swelling around the bone on the outside of the ankle.
Grade 2 symptoms will result in moderate to severe pain with difficulty walking. The athlete is unlikely to be able to play on and will limp. Minor bruising may be evident along with swelling and stiffness in the ankle joint. There is likely to be some instability of the joint resulting from moderate tearing of some of the ligament fibres.
Grade 3 usually results in a total or almost complete rupture of a ligament. Severe pain will be felt initially with lots of swelling and extensive bruising. The athlete will experience gross instability of the joint.
Ankle sprain treatment
Immediate first aid for a sprained ankle is RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) as soon as possible. Cold therapy or ice should be applied for 10 to 15 minutes every hour for the first 24 to 48 hours. Often pitch side therapists will bind the ankle tightly in a compression bandage as soon as the injury has occurred to restrict swelling, although this must be done with caution for only 10 minutes at a time to prevent starving the area of blood resulting in further injury. Do not apply ice directly to the skin as it may burn. Treatment with ice may continue for some time during the rehabilitation process.
Our step by step ankle sprain rehabilitation program takes you from injury to full fitness. After the initial acute stage which is usually 24 to 48 hours (but could be longer with a bad sprain) rehabilitation and exercises may begin although only if pain allows. The program is based around three phases of reducing pain and inflammation, restoring normal mobility and building up strength and proprioception (or coordination of the ankle joint).