Ankle sprains are one of the most common sports injuries when the ankle rolls inwards or outwards. This can be a result of a fall, a sudden twist, or landing on the side of the foot during jumping activities. It could also happen when one misses a step or trips over a curb.
- The ankle joint is made up of 3 bones – the talus, the fibula (the protruding bone on the outside of the ankle) and the tibia (the protruding bone on the inside of the ankle).
- Ligaments, which are the primary stabilizers of the ankle, hold these bones together.
- On the inside of the ankle, the deltoid ligament, which is thick and strong, provides joint stability. Injury to the deltoid ligament can happen when the foot is twisted outward – known as an eversion sprain.
- On the outside of the ankle, 3 small separate ligaments – the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL), the posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL) and calcaneofibular ligament (CFL) – provide joint stability. Injury to any of these ligaments happens when the foot is twisted inwards – known as an inversion sprain. An inversion sprain accounts for 80% of all ankle sprains, and the ATFL is the most commonly injured ligament.
Common Signs and Symptoms
- Pain either on the inside or outside area of the ankle
- Increasing difficulty in walking / putting weight on that foot
- Swelling and redness
The severity of the injury can be determined by the degree of disability immediately and subsequently after injury, and by the degree of swelling and bruising.
How can a Physiotherapist help?
- An assessment by your physiotherapist can determine the severity of the ligamentous injury, the instability of the ankle joint, and to exclude damage to other structures in the ankle joint.
- Management of ankle sprains follow the principles of reducing pain, managing swelling, restoring range of movement, improving muscle strength and improving joint proprioception and balance.
- The initial management of RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) and restricted weight-bearing in the acute stage of injury is important.
- Treatment may consist of soft tissue release, joint mobilisations, exercises, taping and ultrasound therapy. A sport-specific rehabilitation program will be implemented to facilitate safe return to the desired sporting activity.
Ankle sprains are painful and can be debilitating.