As fall sports heat up for kids, so do 5Ks, marathons and golf tournaments for adults, leading to ankle sprains for athletes of all ages.
“Serious athletes and weekend warriors often underestimate the seriousness of a sprain, and they rush into action without taking the time to properly rehabilitate the injury,” says Michael J. Cornelison, DPM, FACFAS , foot and ankle surgeon and president of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS). “While no one likes to be left out of the physical activities they enjoy, early diagnosis and treatment of an ankle injury speeds the healing process. It also reduces the chances of chronic ankle pain in the long term.
To help people properly manage this painful injury, the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons shares some important information and facts:
What is an ankle sprain? An ankle sprain is an injury to one or more ligaments, usually on the outside of the ankle. The severity depends on whether the ligament is stretched, partially torn, or completely torn, as well as the number of ligaments involved. Ankle sprains are not the same as strains, which affect muscles rather than ligaments.
What causes ankle sprains? Sprained ankles often result from a sudden fall, twist, or blow that forces the ankle joint out of its normal position. Sometimes ankle sprains occur due to congenital conditions or previous injuries.
“I always recommend that those who have had sprains and injuries in the past have their ankles checked for chronic instability when starting new fitness routines,” says Dr. Cornelison.
Do ankle sprains require a visit to the doctor? People with ankle injuries should see a foot and ankle surgeon whenever there is bruising or they cannot bear weight on that foot. Receiving a correct diagnosis is essential because different injuries require different treatment. An examination can determine if there is a fracture – which involves a crack or break in the bones that form the ankle joint. It also helps to differentiate a high ankle sprain from a lateral ankle sprain.
Can an athlete play through pain? Whether it’s training for a 5K or quarterbacking for a high school team, getting back into the game is often a patient’s top concern, and athletes can feel pressure from their teammates. and coaches to play through the pain. But rehabilitation for a sprained ankle should begin right away. If rehabilitation is delayed, the injury may be less likely to heal properly and may lead to chronic ankle instability, which is not only painful but may also increase the risk of additional ankle sprains.
How are ankle sprains treated? Most ankle injuries do not require surgery, according to Dr. Cornelison, who emphasizes that foot and ankle surgeons will always choose the most conservative treatment for the best long-term results. In addition to rest, ice, compression, and elevation (also known as RICE), doctors may also recommend physical therapy to promote healing and range of motion, as well as NSAIDs to reduce pain and inflammation. In more severe cases, or in cases where the injury was initially neglected, surgery may be needed to repair the damaged ligaments. The foot and ankle surgeon will select the procedure best suited to the type and severity of the injury.
For more information about ankle sprains and to find a foot and ankle surgeon near you, visit FootHealthFacts.org, the patient education website of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons .