With basketball, football and netball seasons in full swing, it is peak time for ankle sprains. This is the most common sporting injury! The ligaments on the outside of the ankle are commonly stretched and injured when the athlete lands incorrectly with the foot rolling to the outside. The correct management for ankle sprains is to follow the RICER program. Rest, Ice (20 mins every 1-2 hours), Compression with a bandage, Elevation and Referral to an appropriately qualified sporting professional. The things to avoid follow the NO HARM approach, no Heat, no alcohol, no running and no massage of the injured area. These 2 acronyms can be used in the initial first few days of management of any sporting injury. Crutches may be needed if you can’t weight bear on it. In fact if you can’t put weight on it after 24 hours, it is advisable to get an X-ray taken, as it is common that a small fracture can occur with these injuries which will require the ankle to be immobilised in a cast.
If you can put weight on it, after the first few days you need to slowly get the area moving. Beginning rehabilitative strengthening exercises will assist in the recovery of the injury. The extent of the injury obviously has an impact on how long the whole recovery process will take with very minor ankle sprains able to be played on in a couple of days where more significant injuries can take 6-10 weeks and even surgery in very rare cases. Seeing a physio early in the recovery process can help settle inflammation, show you the correct exercises to do and give you a good idea on how long it will take to return your sport.
Nearly all professional footballers preventatively tape their ankles before training and playing to hopefully prevent or at least minimise the extent of the injury. Some people use braces instead of tape but this comes down to personal preference. Correct training, good landing technique and preventative exercises can hopefully reduce the frequency of these injuries.