What are ankle sprains? 

An ankle sprain is an injury to one or more ligaments in the ankle, usually on the outside of the ankle. Ligaments are bands of strong tissue – like elastic bands – that attach one bone to another, supporting the joint between them and preventing excessive joint movement. When an ankle is sprained, overstretching of these ligaments occurs and can result in tears, bleeding, and swelling.

The severity of ankle sprains varies. They are classified into the 3 stages:

  • Grade 1 – Mild over-stretching of the ligament with little swelling and little or no functional loss or joint instability. Able to fully/partially bear weight.
  • Grade 2 – Moderate over-stretching of the ligament with partial tearing. Moderate to severe swelling, bruising and moderate functional loss and joint instability. Difficulty bearing weight.
  • Grade 3 – Severe over-stretching of the ligament with complete rupture, with immediate and severe swelling, bruising and moderate to severe joint instability. Inability to bear weight without severe pain.

Causes of ankle sprains  

Ankle sprains are common sporting injuries, although they can occur in anyone who suddenly twists or jolts their ankle, resulting in excessive forces moving the ankle joint beyond its normal range of motion. Contributing factors can be classified into the following:

  • Internal: poor muscle strength and/or tone, poor proprioception (sense of body position and movement), hyper-mobile (excessively flexible) ligaments, supinated foot type, inadequate experience or conditioning for the physical activity performed.
  • External: inadequate footwear, walking or running on uneven surfaces, landing awkwardly from a jump or side-step

Symptoms of ankle sprains

Symptoms of ankle sprains include:

  • Ankle pain, particularly when weight-bearing
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Pain during movement
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Ankle instability
The intensity of symptoms varies depending on the severity of the ankle sprain. Some sprains do not cause any pain but may result in ankle instability or vice versa.  Regardless, it is highly recommended that any ankle sprain be assessed promptly to reduce possible future complications. Early assessment and treatment are crucial in gaining positive treatment outcomes.

The need for early assessment and treatment.   

Early assessment and treatment is imperative for the following reasons:

  • Untreated ankle sprains can lead to chronic ankle instability, a condition marked by persistent discomfort and a “giving way” of the ankle.
  • A more severe ankle injury may have occurred along with the sprain. This may include bone injuries, such as avulsion fractures.
  • An ankle sprain may be accompanied by a foot injury that causes discomfort but often goes unnoticed until the ankle pain has resolved.
  • Rehabilitation should begin as early as possible. If delayed, the injury may be less likely to heal properly.

Our treatment of ankle sprains 

Ankle sprains must be assessed and treated by highly experienced and qualified healthcare professionals, such as podiatrists and physiotherapists. Treatment guidelines based on comprehensive research exist to gain the best possible outcomes. Thus, it is very important that an accurate diagnosis and grading is made of the ankle sprain, to develop the most affective treatment plan for you. Treatment options may include:

  • Protection. splinting or taping the ankle can protect it from further injury.
  • Rest. Avoid weight-bearing on the injured ankle initially, this may cause further pain.
  • Ice. to ease pain and swelling. Do it for 20-30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours for 2 to 3 days, or until the pain is gone.
  • Compression. compression bandages help to reduce swelling.
  • Elevation. Raising the ankle above the level of the heart helps to reduce swelling.
  • Physical therapies. Rehabilitation programs help to promote healing and range of motion.
  • AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill. Continuation of training on the AlterG to decrease the load on the foot and its surrounding muscles whilst maintaining an exercise program.
  • Anti-inflammatory. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin, will help with pain and swelling.

Surgery for ankle sprains

Rarely do ankle sprains require surgery. However, if an ankle sprain is non-responsive to conservative treatment, commonly experienced in those with chronic ankle instability, surgery can be helpful. Our Podiatric Surgeon can provide education and advice on the appropriate procedure or procedures based on the severity and nature of the injury.