How can I reduce my risk of sustaining an ankle sprain?
The biggest risk factor for sustaining an ankle sprain is previous or existing ankle injury, especially if it’s poorly or inadequately rehabilitated. So, the first and most important thing you can do is to make sure you properly manage your injuries as they happen. This means consulting with your trainer or therapist and following their advice.
There are a number of other risk factors that can heighten the risk of sustaining an ankle sprain. These include;
- Limited ankle range of motion (ROM)
- Poor proprioception (reduced ability to sense where your body is in its environment)
- Deficiencies in postural control/ balance
- Reduced strength, agility, coordination and endurance
Forty percent of individuals who sustain an acute lateral ankle sprain will go on to develop chronic ankle instability, your trainer or therapist can help you work out if this is you. It is important to mitigate your risk of sustaining an acute ankle injury or recurrent ankle sprains through identifying any deficiencies in proprioception, balance and joint range of motion and target these areas in a regular weekly injury prevention/ rehabilitation program.
Other factors such as inadequate warm up or sport specific skills, inappropriate footwear, lack of external ankle support (tape/brace) for recent ankle sprains returning to sport, and poor condition of ground surface may also contribute to an increased risk of injury.
The most important question…. How long until I can return to play?
A clinical assessment is recommended by your healthcare professional to determine the severity of the injury and advise the most appropriate treatment and rehabilitation. In case of suspicion of a high-grade ligament injury, syndesmosis injuries, damage to bone surface or obvious fractures, the practitioner may request an MRI.
Providing there is no significant high-grade ligament injury, syndesmosis injury or fracture, acute phase management can begin, with the aim to decrease swelling with ice, compression and elevation for the first 48-72 hours.
Padding (Leukofoam) cut in the shape of a ‘U’ and wrapped with non-restrictive tape around the outer surface of the ankle is often helpful to decrease swelling. Care should be taken in the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication as it can be associated with complications and delay the natural healing process. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you think you might require any medication for pain or swelling.
Following an acute ankle sprain, pain decreases rapidly within the first 2 weeks. Most ankle sprains have significantly improved within 2-6 weeks, however in some cases it may extend beyond this period. If you fall into the latter group, recovery guidance from your allied health team is a must!
What else can I do to help my ankle recover?
A comprehensive rehabilitation program should begin as soon as possible to minimise the chance of injury recurrence and promote optimal recovery. These sorts of exercise programs mainly consist of exercises to promote:
- Balance/ Proprioception
- Sport specific exercises