The most common type of ankle injury is a lateral (outside) ankle sprain. The most common mechanism of injury is an inversion sprain which occurs when the foot turns inwards causing excessive rolling onto the outer ankle. Some patients report hearing a ‘pop’ or ‘snap’ at the time of injury. This may cause either a strain, partial or full tear one or more of three lateral ankle ligaments.
When an ankle sprain occurs it is usually accompanied by pain and a large amount of swelling. Subsequent to the injury, bruising may appear around the ankle joint and down into the foot.
The lateral ankle ligaments that stabilise the fibula to the foot are the most often injured. Three ligaments, anterior talo-fibular ligament (ATFL), calcaneofibular ligament (CFL) and posterior talo-fibular ligament (PTFL) make up the complex of ligaments on the outside of your foot that provide this stabilisation. Most commonly, it is the ATFL that is injured with an inversion sprain.
Like all acute injuries, rest, ice, compression and elevation should be administered for the first 24-72 hours. Depending on the severity of injury, crutches may be required.
It is imperative to start ankle physiotherapy soon after an ankle sprain, the next day if possible, to decrease pain and swelling and improve range of movement. Once the initial pain and swelling has resolved an ankle rehab programme can be commenced consisting of strengthening, proprioceptive (balance) and agility exercises. This allows for a more rapid return to sport and exercise, and often prevents reoccurrence of the injury.
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