By: Sarah McWilliams
We’ve all heard of ankle sprains. Your favorite athlete has probably suffered from one, or maybe even yourself. Ankle sprains are the most common injury in the ankle. With the complex ligaments in the ankle and the pounding it endures on a daily basis, ankle sprains are common in not only elite athletes and weekend warriors, but also the casual walker.
An ankle sprain is a stretching or tearing of the fibers in the ligaments surrounding the ankle. Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Kenneth Jung, of the world-renowned Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic, states that while many people refer to ankle sprains as a general term, there are actually three different levels of intensity that designate three different grades of sprains. The first is a stretching of the fibers, the second is a partial tearing of the ligament and the third is a complete rupture of the fibers.
Who is at risk?
Sports doctors see this type of injury across all demographics. The type of activity in which an individual participates may place them at increased risk for sprain. Because activity, rather than genetics, is often the root of the injury, it’s typically those in specific sports that see this type of injury. One exception is individuals with a cavus alignment, more commonly known as a high arch.
“Definitely sports that involve a lot of cutting and quick change of direction,” Dr. Jung says.
Signs and Symptoms
Typically, when you sprain your ankle you will feel immediate pain with swelling and sometimes bruising to follow. Your ankle will also feel tender and may feel unstable. Not all, but some people do hear or feel a popping noise at the point of impact.
“There is also some bad luck involved,” Dr. Jung says. “Even the best-trained athlete or someone with tight-rope-like balance can step on a curb wrong or land poorly in a pick-up basketball game. Be careful of your surroundings and paying attention can help with preventing ankle sprains.”
Dr. Jung also suggests balance exercises to help prevent future mishaps. Stability training is a great form of exercise to help with balance. Warming up before any sort of training can also serve as a preventative measure.
Although there doesn’t seem to be anything dietary that can help prevent ankle sprains, there is a genetic component. “Ligaments are made of collagen and there’s definitely a genetic component to that,” Dr. Jung says, “Although you can’t change your genetics, you can work on stability training to improve balance.”
When to see a doctor
If you put weight on your ankle and you feel something shifting around or “giving way”, that’s a good sign that you may have a sprain. Swelling and bruising are other indications of an ankle sprain. Sprains and fractures have similar symptoms, so it’s important to have your doctor x-ray the ankle to determine the proper diagnosis and care.
It’s best to stay off a sprain and let it heal, instead of trying to run or train through the pain. Plenty of rest is required for a sprain to heal correctly while ice and elevation can help with healing and swelling. Sometimes, injured athletes may need to take over the counter pain relievers to help with the pain, as in some cases it can be severe. In the first 24-72 hours, an elastic bandage can help support the ankle and help minimize swelling.