Did you know that ankle strains and sprains are the most common fall sports injury? It’s not surprising, really. After all, no matter what sport you’re playing, you almost always concentrate on something besides your feet.
Maybe you’re looking at a ball or another player. Or maybe you’re focusing farther down the track at the same time you’re running and cutting.
These kinds of activities create a lot of chances to put your foot down in a compromising position. Many ankle injuries, for instance, result from stepping on the foot of another player, which causes the ankle to roll.
Preventing ankle injuries
Because of the way the foot and ankle are structured, it can be tough to prevent injuries — especially if you roll your ankle to the inside or outside and your full weight comes down hard on it.
But you can reduce your chances of injury with some stretching exercises:
1. Stretch your ankles for at least five minutes before playing any sport.
2. Stretch them to the inside and outside, as well as down and up.
3. Calf raises and ankle rolls will help to get some fresh blood in there and warm up the ligaments and tendons.
Treating ankle injuries
The first thing to do is try to assess how severe the injury is — you can do this by considering the swelling, bruising and pain level. It’s a good idea to see a doctor soon if the ankle injury appears to be severe. (Especially since what many people think is a severe sprain could in fact be a fractured or broken bone or a ligament that has pulled away a piece of bone.)
If you definitely have just a sprain or strain, there are things you can do to improve the healing process. The most common prescription for an ankle sprain is the RICE method. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation:
- Rest. Don’t walk or put pressure on the ankle; that will increase swelling and prolong the healing period.
- Ice. Apply a cold pack or bag of ice for 10-20 minutes at a time every one to two hours for the first 48 hours (or until the swelling abates).
- Compression. Compression wraps can help reduce swelling and should be used for the first 48 hours or until the swelling abates.
- Elevation. By keeping your ankle above your heart for two to three hours a day, you can significantly reduce swelling and bruising.
When to see a doctor
If you used the RICE method, the swelling hasn’t subsided after 48 hours and there’s still considerable pain and bruising, you may have a bigger issue. In this situation, it’s a good idea to get a professional medical opinion and potentially an x-ray or MRI to make sure there are no torn ligaments or broken bones.
Free injury screenings
Think you have a sports injury? Capital Ortho’s physical therapy department offers free injury screenings.
Just call call our physical therapy department at 515-440-2678 to schedule the screening. We can usually see patients within 24 hours.
Based on the results of the screenings, you may be referred on to a physician, scheduled for physical therapy or just given some basic exercises to work on.