Whether it be from rolling your ankle by stepping on someone’s foot or from an awkward tackle, ankle sprains are an extremely common athletic injury. In fact, ankle sprains are the most common lower extremity injury in sports, accounting for around a quarter of all sports injuries. Ankle sprains are also the most common injury causing time loss from sporting activity.
If you’ve recently experienced this injury, get professional ankle sprain treatment by making an appointment with one of Herlong Sports Physical Therapy’s certified physical therapists, located all throughout the state of Maryland.
What is an Ankle Sprain?
An ankle sprain is defined by the overstretching or tearing of one or more of the ligaments that support the ankle joint. Ankle sprains can be minor and cause just a day or two away from sport, but more severe ankle sprains may require surgery and several months away from sport.
Types of Ankle Sprains
Inversion (lateral) ankle sprains are the most common type of ankle sprain. It is important to rule out a fracture when dealing with an ankle sprain; your healthcare provider will assess your ability to walk and palpate certain bones in your leg and foot to decide if an X-ray is warranted.
Eversion Ankle Sprain
Also called a medial ankle sprain. Eversion ankle sprains occur when the foot rolls or twists outward relative to the leg, most commonly causing injury to the deltoid ligament. Pain, bruising, and swelling may occur on the inside of the foot/ankle. This ankle injury is commonly accompanied by fibular fractures.
Inversion Ankle Sprain
Also called a lateral ankle sprain, inversion ankle sprains are the most common type of ankle sprain. This injury occurs when the foot rolls inward relative to the leg, often from stepping or landing on someone’s foot. The most commonly injured structures are the Anterior Talofibular Ligament (ATFL) and the Calcaneofibular Ligament (CFL). Pain, bruising, and swelling may occur on the outside of the foot/ankle.
High Ankle Sprains
Also called a syndesmosis injury. High ankle sprains typically occur when the foot is planted and the toes are forced upward and rotated outward relative to the leg bone, such as when getting tackled with contact being made to the outside of the leg.
The most commonly injured structures from a high ankle sprain are the Anterior Inferior Tibiofibular ligament (AITFL), the Posterior Inferior Tibiofibular Ligament (PITFL), and the interosseous ligament, all ligaments that support the support the distal tibiofibular joint. This is caused when the talus (a foot bone) forces the fibula (leg bone) to pull away from the tibia (shin bone) injuring one of the three ligaments. People who experience these injuries may need to wear a boot cast or brace as part of the recovery process.
Sports Where Sprained Ankles Commonly Occur
Ankle sprains are incredibly common among all athletes that are involved in a sport or activity with a high volume of running, including:
Ankle Sprain Treatment
At Herlong Sports Physical Therapy, we have seen hundreds of patients suffering from ankle sprains and have guided them to complete recovery and return to play.
The treatment plan for your ankle sprain will depend on the type and severity of the sprain. Every case is a little bit different.
When you sprain your ankle for the first time, it significantly increases the risk of having a subsequent ankle sprain. In fact, roughly 40% of individuals with a first-time ankle sprain will develop chronic ankle instability, a condition where they recurrently sprain their ankle.
Receiving proper physical rehabilitation for an ankle sprain is crucial for reducing the risk of recurrent instability in the injured ankle and for facilitating return to sport as safely and efficiently as possible. It is recommended to take the first 1-3 days off of activity to rest and allow the ligaments to heal. After the initial resting phase, physical therapy is recommended.
Our goals in physical therapy will be to reduce pain and swelling, improve the ankle’s range of motion and strength, and to normalize walking. The early phase of physical therapy will consist of light strengthening, balance, and neuromuscular control exercises. Once your symptoms calm down, we will start introducing more impact activity, such as returning to running, jumping, cutting, and contact.
What Patients Are Saying
Came in about a month ago trying to heal my ankle and hamstring, and not expecting much like at my previous PT. This place was much different though, the space itself felt a lot different compared to other PT locations. There were athletes getting athletic training and patients receiving treatment. The atmosphere felt like where an athlete would belong. I'm so glad I was able to find a PT that takes care of me.
How Long Does a Sprained Ankle Take to Heal?
The recovery timeline for an ankle sprain depends on the type and severity of the ankle sprain. For example, a Grade I lateral ankle sprain may take a day or two to recover. However, a Grade III high ankle sprain may require surgery followed by several months of rehabilitation.
Regardless of the type or severity of injury, a rehabilitation program should be implemented to reduce the risk of developing chronic ankle instability.
Ankle Sprain Exercises
Ankle 4 Way
This exercise is ideal for the early phase of recovery from an ankle sprain. The goal of this exercise is to strengthen the muscles around the ankle and to build tolerance to different ankle motions. You will do 10 reps of each exercise 3 times per day. Try to perform each movement by moving the foot at the ankle joint and not by rotating your leg. You will need a light resistance band and something to anchor it to that is not going to move.
Here’s how to perform the Ankle 4 Way exercise:
- Sit facing the band.
- Loop the band over the top of your foot. Make sure it has tension in it.
- Pull your toes up toward your face and slowly lower it.
- Make a quarter turn with your whole body, loop the band around the ball of your foot and pull your foot in against the resistance of the band.
- Make a complete 180 degree turn with your body, loop the band around the ball of your foot and pull your foot out against the resistance.
- Hold the resistance band with both hands, loop it around the ball of your foot and push down against the resistance.