The lateral ankle sprain is the most common sporting injury experienced, accounting for 15-20% of ALL sports injuries. Approximately 50% of all soccer players will have experienced at least one ankle sprain. Having said that, many people also experience these injuries off the sporting field, sometimes just by stepping off a curb.
What is a lateral ankle sprain?
It is when the soft tissues around the outside of the ankle are overstretched and possibly torn.
What are the common causes of an ankle sprain?
Lateral ankle sprains most commonly occur during activities:
- Changing direction
- Opponent falling on leg
- Unexpected uneven ground
Is it often caused by excessively turning the ankle inward (inversion) and pointing the toes (plantarflexion). This overloads the ligaments and capsule which stabilise the ankle on the outside. Sprains often occur when only partial weight is put through the ankle.
What are the signs and symptoms?
- Pain is often worse on the outside of the ankle
- Considerable swelling around the outside of the ankle
- Bruising if tearing of the soft tissues has occurred
- Usually still able to walk but may have a limp due to pain
- Reduced range of motion at the ankle due to pain (especially inversion)
- Tenderness in the soft tissues on the outside of the ankle joint
What are other possible contributing factors to an ankle sprain? (that make it more likely to occur)
- Previous ankle sprain (approximately a 70% recurrence rate)
- Poor balance
- Ankle instability
- Muscle weakness
- Joint stiffness
- Poor warm up
- Poor fitness
- Inappropriate footwear or training surfaces
How are ankle sprains treated?
- RICE (especially in the first 72hrs)
- Early weight-bearing as tolerated – crutches often NOT recommended!
- Taping of the ankle in some cases
- Soft tissue massage
- Ankle joint mobilisations
- Proprioception and ankle stability training
- Strengthening exercises as required
How long will it take for me to return to sports and activites?
Depending on the severity of the sprain, most people return to sports between 2 and 8 weeks. It is imperative for protective taping upon return, as well as continuing advanced proprioceptive (e.g. single leg) exercises to maximise ankle stability and prevent recurrence.