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Ankle Injuries


A Walk Around the World

Four times around the world. That’s the distance the average person will walk in his or her lifetime. So it’s hardly surprising that nearly three-quarters of Americans will eventually experience some type of foot problem. In athletes, these problems are even more common.

Sprained ankles account for 15 percent of all athletic injuries. The sprain is a result of losing the position of the foot in reference to the ground or playing surface, which causes the ankle to buckle – almost exclusively against the outer side.

Because a person can sprain his ankle by simply stepping from the curb – 23,000 ankle sprains occur in the United States every single day – it’s one of those injuries that’s virtually impossible to prevent. Still, there are things you can do to reduce your risk, such as wearing proper shoes. Athletes can reduce their risk by paying close attention to playing surfaces. Many sprained ankles can be directly attributed to slippery gym floors or uneven surfaces in the athletic field.

Once the injury has occurred, the best form of treatment is the RICE method:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation

Most important, the athlete should take his or her weight off the wounded ankle as soon as possible.In addition, it’s crucial to start applying ice during the 24 hours immediately following the injury. To maximize the benefits of icing, the athlete should follow a cycle of 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. By first binding the ankle with an Ace bandage, two purposes are served: The bandage protects the skin from frostbite, and it reduces swelling with consistent pressure. Finally, it’s vital to rest the injured ankle. Keep the foot elevated above the heart by propping it with some pillows. Not only will this type of inactivity allow time for recovery, the position helps to decrease swelling.

The majority of people with routine ankle sprains can expect to return to their normal exercise programs within two weeks. Obviously, a more significant sprain can take longer to rehabilitate.

If the ankle continues to hurt after six weeks, see a physician. Also, if you’re unable to walk on the affected ankle within a day, you should see a physician. Unfortunately, many people refuse to take the ankle injury seriously. The more attention you pay to the sprain, the sooner the ankle is likely to heal and the less likely you’ll sustain another sprain.

Acute Lateral Ankle Sprain

This is the most common athletic injury accounting for 38-45% in some sports. 85% of all ankle injuries are of the "inversion type" (turning the ankle inward). It is the lateral or outer ligaments of the ankle that are injured.

  • Tenderness and swelling along injured ligament
  • Discoloration to ankle or foot area
  • Difficulty bearing weight due to pain
  • Rehabilitation
  • X-rays to exclude fracture (broken bone)
  • Pain control
  • Swelling control - ice area 15 minutes with/ 15 minutes without ice
  • Elevate - keep foot/ ankle elevated and supported above heart level as often as possible
  • Maintain adequate pre-post game conditioning
  • Ankle supports as recommended by health care worker (ankle stirrups)

Chronic Lateral Ankle Sprain

This is a direct result of recurrent ankle sprains associated with frequent pain, swelling and ankle "giving out".

  • Rehabilitation
  • RICE
    • rest
    • ice
    • compression
    • elevation
  • Range of motion exercises as designated by athletic trainer of healthcare provider
  • Proprioceptive training (balance techniques and strengthening exercises)
  • Surgical intervention remains controversial but is an option for reinjury in spite of rehabilitation
  • Rule out congenital abnormalities
  • Maintain adequate pre-post game conditioning
  • Recognition of chronic symptoms

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

© Copyright 1995-2013 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

Ankle Sprain Prevention

Sprains are injuries to the tough ropelike fibers (ligaments) that connect bone to bone. Ankle sprains can keep an athlete from competing from one to two days to as long as six weeks, depending on the severity. The athlete and coach can help reduce the potential for serious ankle sprains.

ankle sprain prevention

The first component in ankle injury prevention is proper flexibility.

Stretching of the calf muscle is important in preparing that muscle for the demands of jumping and running. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds; repeat three times. It is important to gradually stretch without bouncing. Pain should not be felt while stretching.

ankle sprain prevention

Strengthening is the next component. A simple program consisting of heel walking and calf raises can strengthen muscles surrounding the ankle. Thirty seconds of heel walking can help in strengthening the front portion of the ankle (the dorsi-flexors). One set of 30 calf raises can be done to strengthen the calf muscle (gastroc/soleus) group. Ankle weights or resistive rubber band exercises can be done to strengthen the muscles on the inside and outside of the ankle (posterior tibialis and peroneal.)

ankle sprain prevention

The last component is proprioception. Our bodies have receptors that exist within muscle tendons, ligaments and other soft tissue structures surrounding the joints. These receptors, which are responsible for relaying information back to our central nervous system on joint position, have to be trained to respond quickly to help decrease the potential for injury. A simple exercise that can help is a single leg balance. Stand on one leg only for 30-60 seconds. Repeat three times. Begin with eyes open, and progress to eyes closed. Change legs. Once you have that mastered, stand on one leg and perform a half-squat, one set of 15. Do each leg. Progress from holding on to a table to no hands to eyes closed.

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

© 1995-2013 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved

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