“HELP! I’VE GOT WEAK ANKLES.”
Ankle sprains affect much of the sporting population at one point or another in their aspiring athletic careers. Whether the injury keeps you out of the game for one round or six, appropriate early intervention and rehabilitation is vital for the long term stability of your ankle and to prevent recurrent ankle sprains… the dreaded “weak ankles”.
The most common ankle sprain affects the biomechanically vulnerable lateral ankle ligament complex. It is usually a result of landing awkwardly from a jump or landing on uneven ground with the foot moving inward (plantarflexion/inversion). Most sprains are traumatic in nature and patients typically experience pain and swelling on the outside
of the ankle.
Correct diagnosis – see your physio!
The results of your initial physiotherapy assessment will provide you with clarity regarding:
- The nature and severity of your ankle injury
- Appropriate initial management – do you need crutches?
- An indication of timeframes for your recovery – will you make the GF?
Broadly, there are three grades of ligament injury. Specifically for the lateral ankle sprain this denotes which ligaments are torn of the anterior talofibular ligament, calcaneofibular ligament and posterior talofibular ligament, increasing in severity from 1 to 3.
Be mindful that there are other structures in the ankle that can be injured during a sprain and treatment needs to be tailored for specific conditions. For example; the mechanism of injury for a “high ankle sprain” can be similar to a typical ankle sprain and may also involves an element of twisting. It involves the upper ankle ligaments and syndesmosis, the connective tissue between the two shin bones. If you experience a high ankle sprain, you should avoid forced dorsiflexion of the ankle, a commonly prescribed exercise, particularly in the early stages of treatment. Recovery from this injury can also be substantially longer. To get the best outcome, make sure you seek appropriate advice for your specific injury.
First things first…
Like all acute injuries, never underestimate the importance of early injury management including rest, ice, compression and elevation for the first 48 hours.
The research also suggests that early and appropriate weight bearing is an important factor in successful ankle rehabilitation. You are likely to hear your physio say “weight bear as tolerated whilst keeping a good walking pattern”, particularly weight bearing through the heel or flat of the foot rather than the ball of the foot. This may or may not involve using crutches and your physio will be able to help you with this. However, before you commence any exercise or rehabilitation, have your ankle assessed by a physiotherapist and get a clear diagnosis established.
Preventing another ankle sprain
The short answer is good rehab. Your physiotherapist will be able to provide specific treatment and exercise during your rehabilitation and return to sport. See the examples in the graphic.
First game back
“The evidence suggests that using tape or braces can reduce the likelihood of reinjuring your ankle. Next to this preventive effect, the use of tape or braces results in less severe ankle sprains” (Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. 2000, 10(4): 291-296).
Watch this video to learn how to strap your ankle to prevent injury.
- Taping precautions
- Technique 1: Anchor tape
- Technique 2: Anchor stirrups
- Technique 3: Six – further stability
- Technique 4: Reverse six – further stability
Still need some specific advice? The physiotherapists at Axis can help. Our contact us page has all or our details or give us a call to make an appointment today.
Good luck with your recovery!