Sprained Ankle KawanaDecember 17, 2010
A sprained ankle refers to damage of the soft tissue and ligaments of the ankle. The most commonly affected ligament is the one on the front/ outside part of you ankle (lateral ligament). Sprains most commonly occur with rapid changes in direction, especially on uneven ground like in sports such as: basketball, football, volleyball and netball, when the foot is turned inwards and downwards whilst weight is through it. A sprain may range from a small partial tear with minimal pain (grade I) to a complete rupture resulting in significant pain and immobility (grade III). Sometimes an audible snap or tearing sound is heard at the time of injury with subsequent pain and swelling and occasionally inability to weight bear. Bruising and stiffness can develop over the following days. A physiotherapist’s questioning and examination is usually sufficient in the diagnosis of a sprained ankle however investigations such as x-ray/MRI/CT may be required to rule out other injuries (eg. fracture) or grade the tear.
Most sprained ankles heal well with Physiotherapy, however compliance by the patient dictates the rate of success. For the first 48-72hours treatment involves the R.I.C.E (rest, ice, compression & elevation) regime to reduce bleeding, swelling and inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medication may also be helpful at this time. As soon as pain allows the patient should perform ranging, strengthening and balance exercises to prevent stiffness, weakness and instability from developing. A gradual return to activity and sport should occur once pain- free. In minor to moderate sprained ankles (grades I-II) they usually return to sport in 2-6 weeks, however grade III tears require a longer period of rehab. Rarely is a surgical reconstruction of the ligament required when conservative measures fail.