Ankle Sprains

By Kevin Cunningham, MSPT, OCS
Sports Medicine Physical Therapist at Broward Health Coral Springs

Ankle sprains are a common injury in sports, especially those requiring lateral movements such as soccer, basketball and football. Lateral (outside) ankle sprains have been reported to account for approximately 15 to 45 percent of all sports injuries. A sprain indicates that the integrity of the ligament has been altered.

There are three main types of ankle sprains:

1) Lateral Ankle Sprain – the most common type of sprain.

2) Syndesmotic Sprain – also known as high ankle sprains and anterior tibiofibular sprains. These injuries occur between the two bones of the lower leg, the tibia and fibula.

3) Medial Ankle Sprains – which are rare and involveinjury to the ligaments located on the inside of the ankle.

Sprains are also divided into three groups, or grades, depending on the severity of the injury. A grade-I sprain is the most common and requires the least amount of treatment and recovery time; they are an over stretch of the ligament and do not cause any significant instability. Grade-II sprains involve the partial tearing of the ligaments. Grade-III injuries involve the complete tearing of ligaments and instability, requiring more treatment and a slower recovery time.

Recovery from an ankle sprain can also vary depending on a patient’s history of previous ankle injuries. The location of the sprain can also affect recovery time, such as with syndesmotic ankle sprains that can take two to three times longer than typical sprains.

X-rays should be taken to rule out the possibility of fractures, especially if a person is unable to bear weight immediately after the injury or during the examination, or if bone tenderness is present.

Management of an ankle sprain also depends on the severity of the injury. However, the initial treatment for all sprains is the same – rest, ice, compression and elevation, also known as R.I.C.E, for two to three days. Depending on the degree of the injury, weight bearing may be limited and immobilization of the ankle may be necessary for a few weeks.

Physical therapy helps with the restoration of full range of motion, and strengthening of the ankle and hip muscles. Proprioceptive or balance training is also an important part of recovery as it aids in preventing repeat ankle sprains and further ankle instability. Statistically, 20-60 percent of individuals who sprain their ankle are likely to experience recurrent sprains. However, several studies have shown there is a decreased risk of ankle sprains or re occurrence of sprains in individuals who have completed skilled physical therapy treatments that have included balance or proprioceptive training.

Broward Health Coral Springs’s Rehabilitation Department has a dedicated team of physical therapists, occupational therapists and certified strength and conditioning specialists using state-of-the-art equipment to tailor-make a treatment plan to suit an individual’s needs. They also offer The Youth Sports Therapy Program, specially designed to meet the specific needs of young athletes – from prevention to treatment of sports injuries. The Rehabilitation Department is open Monday – Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. For inquiries, or to make an appointment, please call (954)344-3180.