Certain sports injuries are simply more common than others. A prominent example of this is ankle sprains, which are estimated by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons to be experienced by 25,000 people every day. In part, this is due to the important role that ankles play in a vast majority of physical activities. Also contributing to the high volume of these injuries is the fact that sprains are commonplace for non-athletes as well.
Ankle Structure and Anatomy
Your ankle joint is essentially comprised of three bones—the tibia, fibula, and talus—and numerous ligaments that bind everything together. The structure of your ankle allows for up-and-down movement from the ankle joint and side-to-side movement from the subtalar joint. When we look at sprains, there are two ligaments that are more commonly affected than others: the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) and the calcaneal fibular ligament (CFL). Your ATFL connects the fibula bone to the talus, while the CFL connects it to the calcaneus (heel bone).
What is an Ankle Sprain?
Those ligaments that hold everything in place have a certain range of motion. This is necessary for protecting your ankle from any abnormal movements, like excessively rolling or twisting your foot. When your foot takes it upon itself to extend beyond its intended range, the ligaments overstretch and even tear.
You experience pain whenever soft tissue tears, and this is the case for a sprained ankle. Other symptoms to note include swelling, bruising, and potentially an inability to place weight on the affected foot. The extent of the symptoms of this injury depends on its severity. These are classified as Grade 1 through Grade 3, with Grade 1 being the mild side of the spectrum.
How are Ankle Sprains Treated?
As with determining the severity of the injury, the grade will typically dictate what kind of treatment is most effective for an ankle sprain.
Grade 1 - the result of slight stretching and damage to ligament fibers—is typically treated with RICE therapy (rest, ice, compression, and elevation).
Grade 2 - partial tearing of the ligament—will also use RICE therapy in the initial wave of treatment, but can also benefit from the use of an air splint to immobilize the injury.
Grade 3 - complete tear of the ligament—may require a cast or cast-brace for a couple of weeks.
Regardless as to the specific grade, there are three distinct phases of recovering from the injury. Phase 1 is centered on protecting the ankle and resting to reduce swelling. Phase 2 is a matter of restoration for your strength, flexibility, and range of motion. Phase 3 entails a gradual return to certain physical activity and maintenance exercises before progressing to more involved activities.
Can Ankle Sprains Be Prevented?
Treating a sprained ankle is certainly possible, but we would prefer to know that you were able to prevent one from happening in the first place. There are measures you can take to decrease the odds of suffering from this injury, including:
Warm-up and stretch properly before engaging in physical activities. Along the same lines, prepare your body by slowly ramping up levels of frequency, duration, and intensity when you begin a new workout program.
Wear shoes that fit well and are designed for the activity you are doing. Proper-fitting shoes help to prevent many common foot and ankle injuries.
Pay careful attention to surfaces that you walk or run upon, especially ones that are uneven.
Consult With the Experts
Ankle sprains are common and may just require some time of rest in order to heal, but it is still a smart idea to have your injury checked by one of our professional foot specialists at Palm Beach Podiatry. If you are experiencing pain in your foot or ankle, come see us at any one of our three, convenient SE Florida locations for a proper diagnosis and effective treatment.
Call our Boynton Beach office at (561) 734-3100, our Loxahatchee office at (561) 791-7773, or our Fort Pierce office at (772) 468-0089. You can also use our online form to request an appointment and find the pain relief you need today!