Lateral Ankle Sprains are one of the most common sporting injuries to the ankle usually caused by ‘rolling out’ or the sole of your foot facing the midline.
The commons ligament involved are
- The anterior talofibular joint or ATFL for short
- This is also supported by the calcaneofibular ligament (CFL)
- and your posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL). These are very common in sports such as netball, basketball, volleyball and all codes of football
Many people don’t get these looked at by a professional and may get away with it – for the short term, but it is important to know that if not re-trained correctly this short term instability can become a chronic ongoing and often painful problem. It’s also very important to assess if further damage or anything more sinister is underlying, like the dreaded high ankle sprain or syndesmosis tear, this may be indicated by feeling pain deep in the lower part of the shin or sharp pain with weight going through a plantar flexed ankle such as a squat or a lunging motion.
What to do initially?
The onset of a rolled ankle is almost unmistakable, your ligaments give way causing you to stumble and with sharp shooting pain, this often happens with sporting players stepping on other player’s feet or a sharp change of direction.
- The first thing to do is elevate it and add a cold compress (do not add ice directly to the skin be sure to use some toweling to prevent skin damage) – this doesn’t necessarily speed up the healing but will have an analgesic or numbing effect on the site.
- There may be some bruising for the next 48 hours or more depending on the level of tissue damage, try to avoid any excessive weight bearing to enable the healing process to do its job during this time.
- Book an appointment ASAP with your health care practitioner.
Symptoms of a lateral ankle sprain
A lateral ankle sprain usually :
- Causes immediate pain around the outside or on top of the ankle
- May be an inability to weight bear
- Swelling of the ankle and potentially bruising
How are they diagnosed?
In clinic diagnosis will be based on the amount of laxity or motion in the ankle joint coupled with strength testing with some hands on tests to help eliminate other potential causes of the pain, but if required an ultrasound or MRI may be required to confirm
Grade 1 –
With a grade 1 lateral ankle sprain, with appropriate management we would expect the ankle to recover within 2 -4 weeks depending on severity and ability to manage rehab
Grade 2 –
With Grade 2 sprains they have greater ligament damage and thus will take longer to heal, depending on things like age, fitness and strength as well as access to equipment it can take anywhere from 3 weeks to 8. Normally you’d have significant swelling and bruising with pain to walk and feeling unstable
Grade 3 –
A severe tear or complete tear of a ligament which usually takes anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months and may require crutches or bracing in the early stages and an extensive rehabilitation program. You’ll will feel a lot of pain on weight bearing and severe instability in the ankle joint
When should I get it checked out?
It is important to get your ankle checked out quickly to assess the damage and get your recovery on the right path as soon as possible. It is especially important to come in if you hear any pops clicks or tears at the time of the injury as this can indicate some more severe ligament or bone damage. An Osteopath will :
- Thoroughly assess your injury,
- Diagnose your injury and give you an estimated recover time where possible,
- Design a rehabilitation program aimed at aiding recovery and preventing recurrence,
- Brace or tape when required.
- Refer for further imaging (if required)
After a thorough assessment we may send you off for a scan for confirmed diagnosis or design a rehab program to get you back doing what you love or need to do.
What can we do to help?
The purpose of osteopathic treatment will vary greatly depending on the injury…….but in a nutshell we will aim to :
- Reduce ankle pain and inflammation.
- Normalise your ankle joint range of motion.
- Strengthen the muscles around the ankle such as your calf (gastrocnemius and solues), peroneals, tibialis posterior and tibialis anterior to improve healing and minimise the risk of recurrence.
- Strengthen your other important lower limb muscles; namely quads, hamstrings, hip and pelvis muscles.
- Ensure lower limb biomechanics are not altered due to time spent in pain.
- Improve your speed, proprioception, agility and balance.
- Improve your technique and function.
- Minimise your chance of ankle re-injury.
- Make sure your joints, like knee, hip or lower back, are not compromised.
If you or anyone you know has sprained their ankle, make sure immediate advice is sort from their local Osteopath. Early intervention is more often than not the best way to early recovery.
If you live in Albury/Wodonga and surrounds and have rolled their ankle, book an appointment ASAP with one of our Osteopaths here at Sports & Spinal Albury.
And of course ff anyone knows about ankle injuries, it is Cameron. Read his blog here to find out more.
Dr. Cameron Bayliss
B Hlth Sc, B App Sc (Osteopathy)