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Physical Therapy Associates ~ Common Sports Injuries  


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Ankle Sprains

The most common of all ankle injuries, an ankle sprain occurs when there is a stretching and tearing of ligaments surrounding the ankle joint. The numerous ligaments around the ankle can become pulled and torn when the ankle is forced into a position not normally encountered. The most common cause of an ankle sprain is applying weight to the foot when it is in loud "snap" or "pop" is heard at the time of the sprain. This is usually followed by pain and swelling of the ankle. Ankle sprains are classified by the degree of severity. See a visual series of an ankle sprain by severity. These are: Grade I - stretch and/or minor tear of the ligament without laxity (loosening). Grade II - tear of ligament plus some laxity. Grade III - complete tear of the affected ligament (very loose). If you play field or court sports, you might be interested in a simple test to predict your risk for ankle sprain. Researchers found that a simple, inexpensive screening tool can predict which athletes may be more likely to have an ankle injury and developed a simple training routine to help reduce that risk. Take the Ankle Sprain Risk Test and check your risk for an ankle sprain during sports. For immediate relief, follow the R.I.C.E. treatment plan. Rest, Ice, Compression and elevation are the best immediate treatment for all pulls and strains. Many of the problems resulting from sprains are due to blood and edema in and around the ankle, therefore it is important to minimizing swelling. After applying the ice, wrap the ankle in an ACE bandage or wrap to keep it supported and compressed. An anti-inflammatory can be helpful to reduce pain and inflammation for the first 7 to 10 days after the injury. Rest. Avoid weight bearing for 24 hours or longer for a severe sprain. Ice. Apply ice (bagged, crushed ice wrapped in a thin towel) to the ankle joint. To avoid frostbite, ice should not be left on the area longer than 20 minutes at a time. Ice 20 minutes every 2 hours for the first 24 hours to control swelling. Compression. Wrap the ankle with an elastic bandage (start at the toes and wrap up to the calf) to help prevent swelling and edema. Elevation. Raise the ankle above the hip or heart to reduce swelling. If swelling doesn't subside in 48 to 72 hours, seek medical treatment for a complete evaluation. If unable to weight bear within 48 hours, seek medical treatment. Ankle Sprain Rehab Exercises. After the initial 24 - 48 hours of rest and icing, you slowly begin weight bearing over several days as tolerated. Continue using crutches to avoid full weight bearing during this phase. Gradually progressing to full weight bearing as tolerated. Try to use a normal heel-toe gait when you do start weight bearing. Continue using an ankle brace to protect the joint from reinjury. Rehabilitation exercises should be begun as soon as tolerated, without pain. Range of motion (ROM) exercises should be begun early in the course of treatment. One simple ROM exercise is to draw the letters of the alphabet with your toes. Gradual progression to other weight bearing exercises should follow shortly after. Any ankle injury that does not respond to treatment in 1-2 weeks may be more serious. Always consult a physician for a thorough evaluation and diagnosis.


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