Ankle sprains… Not so simple

Ankle sprains are one of the most common lower limb injuries in sports. There is no such thing as a simple ankle sprain however only 55% of patients seek medical treatment for an ankle sprain. Many people underestimate the severity of the injury which may lead to persistent symptoms, recurrent ankle sprains and chronic ankle instability (CAI). CAI encompasses multiple insufficiencies that have occurred due to inadequate rehabilitation of the ankle. The ankle can become weak, feel unstable or stiff and cause difficulty balancing or walking/running on unstable surfaces. In sports is can begin to affect performance with less ankle stability and decreased ability to perform changes of direction or cutting manoeuvres. It can also affect confidence levels and certain movements or sports may be avoided due to a fear of re-injury.

The good news is that if rehabilitated well the risk of re-injury and CAI decreases. A good rehabilitation program is split into 5 phases below and progressed as the injury heals:

Initial Phase: This stage begins from the time of ankle sprain to around 3-4 days post injury. This is the time where the injured tissue requires protection. The RICE principle is followed in this phase along with taping and or bracing. 

Intermediate Phase: This stage can last from a few days to a few weeks. Gait retraining and exercises including stretching, balance, strength and endurance are the focus. Your physio will also advise you on the best way to maintain fitness levels throughout your rehab.

Advanced Phase: This stage can continue up to 4-6 weeks depending on the severity of the injury. Exercises become more advanced along with the inclusion of jumping and landing drills, running, hopping and change of direction. 

Return to Sport Phase: Sport specific movements and activities will be integrated into the exercise program with a gradual progression back to trainings and sport. Your physio will test multiple functional movements to make sure you are fit for return to sport. An ankle brace may be recommended for return to play depending on your ankle history and severity of injury. 

Injury Prevention and Monitoring Phase: Once back into sport it is important to continue to work on exercises to help prevent recurrent sprains. Fitness and performance testing can be carried to track progress over time so you can see you are making positive changes with your exercise program. 

Overall ankle sprains are a complex injury that require a thorough rehabilitation plan. It is important seek treatment from a physiotherapist as soon as possible to get started on an individualised exercise program. At Physiologix we are dedicated to helping you achieve your injury and sports performance goals. If you are currently nursing an ankle sprain yourself or not 100% confident with your ankle, call our friendly reception staff on (07) 3511-1112 or email us from the "contact us" page of this website to make an appointment with one of our Physiotherapists.