This Month in Sports Rehabilitation: Getting Back on Your Feet After Ankle Sprains (July 2012)
More About Ankle Sprains
Q and A for Parents
Ankle sprains are a common injury for athletes participating in sports on uneven ground or with frequent changes of direction.
A sprain happens when ligaments that connect the ankle bones are stretched or partially or fully torn. Eighty-five percent of the time this involves the ligaments on the outside of the ankle, known as inversion sprains.
The PRICE Principle
Typically a sprain leads to swelling, bruising, pain, limited motion and strength and limping. Initial care follows the PRICE principle:
- Protection: Ankle wrap, brace, boot or possibly crutches
- Rest: Decreased activity, especially impact and weight-bearing activities
- Ice: For 20 minutes, frequently through the day (as often as each hour)
- Compression: Elastic wrap or ankle sleeve to reduce the swelling
- Elevation: At level to the heart, or higher
Multiple studies show early weight bearing activities help athletes return to normal, so walking on sprained ankles is encouraged as soon as tolerable. Other early rehabilitation methods include:
- Ankle pumps or circles
- Moving the ankle in alphabet shapes
- Trying to normalize walking
Balance Training to Reduce Ankle Sprains
Ankle sprain injuries often damage the receptors that provide feedback regarding ankle positioning and balance, which can have long-term implications and often contributes to chronic ankle sprains. After ankle sprains we recommend balance training, which starts with standing on one leg and progresses to variations of the position and moving in different directions, possibly on different surfaces. As ankle health increases balance training moves on to movements that mimic specific sports or activities (e.g., basketball players use balance training exercises that are similar to basketball movements).
You can reduce your risk for ankle sprains by implementing single-leg or wobble board exercises in balance training. Maintaining normal flexibility and strength in the lower leg and ankle area helps reduce injury, as well.
UW Health Sports Rehabilitation and Ankle Sprains
Physical therapist Doug Grovergrys recently gave a presentation at on ankle injuries at the UW Sports Medicine Symposium and works with patients who have lower leg and ankle problems. He is also an athletic trainer and was recently certified as a Sports Clinical Specialist through the American Physical Therapy Association.