You Sprained Your Ankle, What Should You Do Next?

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Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries with over 25,000 reported every day. Ankle sprains account for approximately 15% of all athletic injuries and the incidence of injury varies by sport. Risk of ankle injury increases with running, lateral movements, and jumping activities. In fact ankle injuries account for 25% of all injuries in running and jumping sports and 50% of all basketball injuries.

The ankle is a complex joint that is designed to absorb huge amounts of force. With simply walking 125% of bodyweight is transmitted to the ankle, running transmits 200%-300% of bodyweight while jumping transmits up to 500% of bodyweight into the ankle. Any alterations in normal joint functions in the ankle/foot can greatly increase the forces transmitted into the ankle. This can lead to early onset of osteoarthritis in the ankle.

Approximately 95% of ankle sprains are inversion sprains. This occurs when you land on the foot with the toes pointing downwards and the foot rolls onto the outside. It can also happen with just rotation in the foot while the foot is firmly planted on the ground. Most often this occurs when you land on or step on someone else’s foot, running on uneven surfaces, or changing direction while slowing down. A few factors that make you more prone to ankle injuries are: previous ankle injuries, low top shoes, narrow long cleats, weak ligaments, weak peroneal tendonitis brace muscles, and tight Achilles tendon.

An ankle sprain is an overstretching or tearing of the ligaments that support the ankle. The ligaments are very tough fibrous bands that help hold the joints of the ankle together and prevent excessive and abnormal movement of the joints.

Ankle sprains are grouped into 3 categories depending upon severity of the injury. Some clues to the severity of the injury are: the amount of rapid swelling, and an audible popping noise. A thorough exam by a qualified healthcare professional and x-rays are needed to properly determine the severity of injury. A 1st degree sprain is an overstretching of one or more of the ligaments in the ankle. With this type of injury you can usually still run, but the ankle will generally hurt with lateral motions and can feel unstable as well. A 2nd degree sprain is an overstretching and mild tearing of one or more of the ligaments of the ankle. Generally you will still be able to walk but it will be painful. A 3rd degree sprain is moderate to full tearing of one or more of the ligaments of the ankle. This type of injury will generally inhibit putting any weight on the foot without support.

Treatment of an ankle sprain will initially consist of rest, ice, compression, and elevation. An ice pack should be tightly wrapped over the ankle, and elevated for 20 minutes once per hour. Treatment of the ankle depends on the severity of the ankle injury

3rd degree ankle sprains usually will require an orthopedic consultation. These injuries are generally treated by casting for up to 6 weeks, and a small percentage will require surgery to heal properly. After the cast is removed a thorough rehabilitation program is needed to restore normal strength and proprioception. 1st and 2nd degree sprains are best treated with specific adjusting of the affected joints and a thorough rehabilitation program. These injuries usually recover very quickly. Kinesiology tape is used to help control swelling at first then it is used for proprioception and stability.

Prevention of future ankle injuries begins with properly and completely rehabilitating your current injury. Keeping the muscles of the lower leg and foot strong and in proper balance is the best preventive measure. Kinesiology taping will help in preventing injuries due to the prorioceptive qualities of the tape. Studies show that athletic taping of the ankle only yields support for 20 minutes before it is overstretched and limited support. Soft lace up style of braces will provide better long term support for the ankle.

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