The Most Common Injury
Ankle sprains are very common in sports, and caused by forcefully twisting the foot upon the lower leg. Most sprains result from changing direction, stopping quickly, or stepping on an uneven surface or someone's foot. Sprains stretch or tear one or more ligaments connecting the lower leg and foot. Signs and symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, point tenderness and loss of function. A "pop" or "tearing" sensation may be felt at the time of injury.
Moderate and severe sprains should be evaluated by a health care provider for prompt, appropriate treatment. Fractures and sprains of the ankle have similar symptoms. X-rays may be needed to ensure bones in the ankle or foot have not been compromised.
Minor sprains can be effectively treated with the PRICE principles:
Protection – Protect the injured ankle from further injury with items such as an ankle brace, Aircast, splint, and/or crutches if needed.
Rest – Reduce regular exercise or activities as needed. Use crutches or a walking boot if painful when bearing weight.
Ice – Apply an ice pack to the injured area every two to four hours, in cycles of 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. Be careful to remove ice application after 20 minutes, as longer could result in nerve damage.
Compression – Wrap the ankle, starting at the foot and working upward, to control swelling and bruising. Examples of compression bandages are elastic wraps, compressionette stockings, and non-adhesive elastic tape. Ask your provider for advice on proper application.
Elevation – Keep the injured ankle above the level of your heart to reduce inflammation and swelling.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as Ibuprofen and Naproxen, can help ease pain and decrease inflammation in addition to the PRICE principles.
After the acute injury phase, rehabilitation of the injured area should begin. This helps prevent stiffness, improve range of motion, and restore the joint's normal flexibility and strength. Some patients may require formal physical therapy to expedite their return to activity.