Injuries are common for anyone participating in sport, from weekend warriors to professionals. Ankle sprains are one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries. This injury accounts for 3-5% of all emergency department visits in the UK which equates to approximately 5,600 incidents per day. Unfortunately, this injury also has a very high re-injury rate and can lead to long-term chronic problems. Indeed in up to 75% of ankle injuries, symptoms may still be present up to four years after injury.

How does the injury happen?

The most common form of ankle injury is an ankle sprain, in particular, what is known as an inversion sprain. Think of when you roll over on your ankle. When this happens, and if there is enough force, the ligaments that help protect the ankle will become overstretched and if that force is great enough, will cause that ligament to tear. This in turn can lead to inflammation and pain in the area. The muscles surrounding the foot such as the peroneals may also be affected by this injury.

Over time if this injury is not attended to and if the rehabilitation process isn’t fully adhered to, the ankle joint may be left with a residual loss of strength, mobility, and balance issues. Because of this, it is common to see a high re-injury rate.

Throughout the rehabilitation process, the focus should be on regaining mobility, strength and balance. In the initial stages after injury, it is important to maintain mobility in a pain-free range. As the swelling and pain decrease, strengthening can begin. Strength training will progress from simple isolated ankle exercises to exercises that replicate the demands of the sport such as hopping, jumps, etc.

If you injure your ankle, it is important to see a physiotherapist as soon as possible. Your physio can then decide if your ankle may need further investigation to rule out a fracture. In the case of a sprain, your physio will provide you with the appropriate exercise and treatments to help you regain full movement and strength.

Tips to help prevent injury or prevent recurrence.

Once people are pain-free, they tend to stop doing the exercises as they believe they are no longer needed. Even after the pain has subsided, it is important to keep working with your exercises. This will help maintain the strength in the ankle.

Strapping and taping can be effective in providing support up to 6 months after an ankle injury if returning to sport. However, the use of strapping and taping will need to be managed as there can be a tendency to become over-reliant on it and can induce feelings of instability or hesitation if not worn.

Balance exercises are an important tool in helping to prevent ankle sprains and also to help regain full use of the ankle. By using balance exercises, the stability of the foot is challenged. This in turn encourages the activation of the smaller muscles of the foot and ankle, therefore aiding stability. This also trains the foot and the brain to allow for sudden unexpected movements.

Balance exercises can begin with something simple like standing on one foot, mimicking sport-specific movements, and incorporating throws and catches.

The bottom line.

Even after the pain has reduced, it is still important to continue to work on balance, strength, and mobility in the joint. Graded exposure to the types of forces and impacts that the joint is put through during a game or the person’s sport will help reduce the risk of re-injury. 

If you have a foot injury, please book in to see us.