The ankle is the most commonly injured joint in the human body. Since nearly all of our body weight (excluding the foot) is transmitted through this joint, it is more susceptible to injury. Sports where athletes perform at high speeds and require sudden changes of direction, such as basketball and soccer, increase the frequency and severity of any ankle injury.
Most of us have had the moment of a roll of the ankle, resulting in an ankle sprain. In fact, the vast majority of ankle sprains are known as a lateral ligament sprain. These result from the ankle turning over so that the sole of your foot faces inward. In this instance, the outer ligaments are stretched too far and damaged. Pain will always be on the outside of the ankle. In a more severe injury, pain may also be on the inside of the foot due to excessive movement.
In a rarer occurrence, the ankle can turn over causing the sole of the foot to turn outward. This is a medial ligament sprain, more commonly found in fractures, damaging the ligaments on the inside of the ankle.
Inversion (or lateral) ankle sprains are more common than eversion (or medial) sprains because of the arrangement of the two leg bones, the tibia and fibula. In addition to the forces applied to the ankle during activity and its anatomical arrangement, other factors influence an athlete's chances of sustaining an ankle injury. Muscle weakness or imbalance as well as decreased range of motion or flexibility can result in injury. Certain individuals have different laxity "or tightness" of their ligaments which will result in a range of severities of ankle injuries.
It is also possible to have a high ankle sprain, damaging the ligaments above the ankle joint. Since the ankle is a weight-bearing joint, these injuries are sometimes slower to heal and may need surgical repair if they cause bones of the ankle to become displaced.
Immediately after experiencing an ankle injury, remember, R-I-C-E: rest the injury; try to avoid activities that cause increased pain and discomfort; ice the injury 15-20 minutes every one to two hours; compress from below the injury to above the injury (not tight enough to inhibit circulation); elevate- the injury above the heart.
By doing so, you will reduce pain and swelling.
The severity of an ankle sprain is determined by the amount of force placed on your foot during the time of injury. Grade 1 is a mild sprain; you can still walk or run, but may have a slight bit of difficulty in doing so. In a Grade 2 sprain, there may be looseness in the ankle joint. Grade 3 is a complete tear of the ligament and generally requires surgery.
The recovery period can last from four weeks, with a mild sprain, to four months, after a broken ankle.
If you have experienced an ankle injury and think you need help in recovering, call Jeremy Woodward, Head Athletic Trainer for United Regional's Sports Medicine Program, 940-781-8812.