A lateral ankle sprain is one of the most common injuries in many sports including soccer, rugby league, AFL and netball. Lateral ankle sprains generally occur when landing on an uneven surface causing your foot to forcefully invert (roll out). The severity of your ankle sprain is dependent on how many ligaments are damaged and to what extent those ligaments are stretched or torn.
What are the symptoms of a sprained ankle?
A mechanism of injury is present in nearly all cases where the rolled in and you felt pain on the outside of your ankle. Depending on the severity you can sometimes hear a crack or popping sound during the incident. There will usually be swelling over the outside of the ankle and foot as well as bruising, which will be tender to touch. You may struggle to put weight through your foot and have a limp.
What ligaments are normally damaged?
The most common ligament that is torn is the Anterior Talofibular ligament (ATFL) and then the calcaneofibular ligament (CFL), and sometimes Posterior Talofibular ligament (PTFL). In more severe cases the Deltoid ligament on the medial side and the Anterior Inferior Tibio-Fibular ligament (AITFL), also referred to as our syndesmosis ligament, may be damaged as well.
How is a sprained ankle diagnosed?
Most ankle sprains can be diagnosed by a thorough subjective and physical exam. Physiotherapists are equipped with special tests to help identify which ligaments are involved and the severity. Recovery time depends on severity. If needed the physiotherapist may send you off for an X-Ray, CT or MRI to rule out any other serious pathology including bony damage. Check out our article on Shoulder Bursitis.
Treatment for a lateral ankle sprain
The risk of re-injury with a lateral ankle sprain is as high as 40-70%, but the better the rehabilitation the less likely your chance of re-injury.
In the initial phases the priority is swelling management and getting you to walk with a normal gait/walking pattern. Then the focus is then on a progressive rehabilitation program to restore full range of motion, restore strength, improve proprioception (“balance”) and then progress into sport specific tasks such as balance, running, landing, and hopping. You will be given a return to run program which starts with straight line running and progresses to agility-based exercises and sport specific drills. Your physiotherapist will have set criteria that you will need to reach before returning to sport.
Get in touch and speak with a Newcastle Physio from Bradmeadwow Physiotherapists.