The first week of Wimbledon 2021 saw Serena Williams forced to withdraw from the event, due to a sprained ankle. An ankle sprain is a pretty common injury, but how problematic is it and what are the issues you may face if you sprain your ankle?
What exactly is an ankle sprain?
A lateral ankle sprain (LAS) occurs when you twist or roll your ankle inward. This can happen by walking/running on an uneven surface, stepping on someone else’s foot, pivoting or changing direction during sport. The severity of the sprain can range from mild to severe. When we assess an ankle sprain, we will normally see what ‘grade’ it is and therefore indicate how severe, depending on how many structures are injured and to what degree.
What happens if I sprain my ankle?
Usually, the abrupt inward ankle twist or roll will lead to a stretch or a tear (partial or complete), of the ligaments on the outside (lateral part) of your ankle. In the very moment before the sprain happening, your ankle muscles will automatically tend to try and protect you with a forceful contraction. Sometimes, this can lead to muscle spasms and/or a small bone fracture where the muscle attaches to your foot.
How will it feel?
Everyone will react differently after an injury and recovery will depend on the severity of the sprain. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Unable to put weight on your foot
- Difficulty moving your ankle and foot
- Pins and needles
What should I do if I sprain my ankle?
Depending on how severe the injury is, how much swelling and bruising you have and whether you can put any weight on your ankle, it may be advisable to have an X-Ray to rule out a fracture. Once it is confirmed that there is no fracture, you can follow the advice below.
Relative rest is a good way to protect your ankle against further damage, this means resting for certain activities and avoiding things that aggravate your pain too much. But it is important to avoid overprotecting your injury. A few days rest might be necessary, but returning to progressive loading during your activities of daily living, non-painful light cardiovascular exercise and balance exercise will allow better recovery. Early management can include:
- Follow the P.O.L.I.C.E. principles (the more up to date version of P.R.I.C.E.)
- Regularly move your ankle, with gentle movements in all directions and starting to use your ankle more gradually as pain allows
- Include balance exercises, so standing on 1 leg, challenging yourself by closing your eyes or throwing & catching a ball
When to get help?
If your ankle remains painful, swollen and you have difficulty putting weight on it after a few days, it’s worth getting some expert advice. Without the right treatment and rehab, a simple ankle sprain can become a longer term issue. Good rehab ensures that you regain full movement in your ankle, you make sure it regains it’s strength and a really important bit called ‘proprioception’. This is the body’s ability to know where it is in space, so, if for example you walk on an uneven pavement, your ankle remains steady and works well to keep you walking without going over on your ankle! Proprioception is often reduced after an ankle sprain, so it’s really important you do the right rehab to build it back up again.
At goPhysio, if you’re worried about an injury, either our Physio or Sports Therapy team can assess your ankle sprain and offer the right treatment and advice to ensure you get optimum recovery. You will be given the confidence and tools to understand your injury and the best steps to take. Find out how to book an appointment here.
Through dedicated rehab, we will help you manage the different phases of the recovery process and will increase the likelihood of successful rehabilitation. A rehab programme will help you regain your normal range of motion, strength and endurance, balance and functional status. This is particularly important if you enjoy sports or have an active lifestyle, but equally so for normal daily activities.
Find out more about our dedicated exercise rehab service here.
The good news is, with the right support and recovery journey, your ankle sprain should be fully resolved and not give you any future issues.