What are Ankle Sprains?

By Megan Miller-Zutshi, Lead Physiotherapist.

Ligaments are bands of strong fibrous tissue that attach bone to bone and help support and stabilise a joint.  An ankle sprain is the result of damage to one or more of the ligaments that stabilise the ankle.

Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries in sport, with the highest incidence occurring in sports requiring sudden changes of direction, or landing from jumps such as basketball, volleyball and netball. However, ankle sprains are not exclusively sporting injuries, they can occur during everyday activities as well.

Sprains are usually graded based on their severity.

Grade I – A mild sprain, which happens when you overstretch a ligament. There may be minimal swelling and bruising around the ankle, and mild pain, but you should be able to put weight on your foot.

Grade 2. A moderate sprain, which happens when you overstretch and partially tear a ligament. There may be quite a lot of swelling, bruising and pain around your ankle, and it will be difficult to put weight on your foot.

Grade 3. A severe sprain, which happens when you completely tear a ligament. There will be significant swelling, bruising and pain around your ankle. Your ankle may feel quite unstable and you won’t be able to put any weight on your foot without a lot of pain.

The most common type of ankle sprain is an inversion sprain, which occurs when the ankle of the weightbearing or landing foot rolls outwards. This causes damage to one or more of the ligaments on the outside of the ankle (lateral ligaments). You can also suffer with a medial ligament sprain, which damages the ligaments on the inside of the ankle and is the result of the ankle rolling inwards.  The third type of sprain is a high ankle sprain which can damage the ligaments between the tibia and fibula bones. Both of these sprains are far less common.

Following an ankle sprain it is important to regain range of movement, functional stability and co-ordination early in the rehabilitation stages. Seeing a qualified healthcare professional within the first week of injury to start rehabilitation is advisable as this can lead to better short-term ankle function. Over the next 8-12 weeks your therapist should be working on improving range of movement, balance, proprioception and strength around the ankle and lower limb, prior to a return to sport or activity.

Although it may seem like an inconsequential injury, a sprain that is not fully rehabilitated can result in recurrence of the injury, as high as 70% risk of reinjury.  This can cause chronic ankle instability, which can in turn lead to a delayed return to sport, disruption to daily activities and result in early degenerative changes in the ankle joint.

If you have suffered with an ankle sprain and would like physiotherapy or sports injury treatment from our practitioners at our Thornbury, Thornbury Active or Yate clinics , please contact our reception team on 01454 838366 or book online.