I was at my daughter’s volleyball game this weekend at the YMCA. A little preface here, my daughter is twelve and is playing in a competitive “club type” league. Twelve already, wow, I remember when she was a toddler and the elders around me were telling me enjoy this age now because, before you know it, she will be a teenager. All those people were right, it seems like just yesterday she was in a car seat, now she is calling “shotgun” as she jumps in the front. That was a nice trip down memory lane, but I began to notice that ankle injuries seem to be occurring almost regularly at games, practices, and tournaments. I decided to do some research to try to find the best way to prevent and treat these common injuries. The most common injury to the ankle is what they call an inversion ankle sprain or a rolled ankle. This happens when the ankle rolls outward over the foot, straining or tearing any or all of the three outside ligaments of the ankle joint. In severe cases there can also be tendon damage. A “high” ankle sprain is diagnosed when the ligaments above the joint are damaged as well.
Ankle sprains are rated based on the severity of the sprain. The symptoms of a level 1 sprain are, swelling, bruising; you might be able to put weight on it, but it won’t be comfortable. Level 2 sprains are the same as level 1, but you will not be able to more than a few steps without major pain in your ankle. A level 3 sprain means there are complete tears or ruptures of the outside ankle ligaments. You will experience instability of the joint and won’t be able to put any weight on that foot.
Proper warm up and stretching, lower leg strengthening exercises, and braces with ridged lateral support are recommended for the prevention of ankle injuries. Even with precautions, these injuries can still occur, especially when playing sports. Keep in mind when choosing an ankle support that elastic braces or tape will provide little to no protection because they do not provide enough support around the joint. You need to make sure that you get something sturdy that will support the whole ankle.
Most professionals recommend the RICE approach:
Rest- Try not to put any weight on it
Ice- 15-20 minutes on several times a day for up to 3 days. More than 20 minutes can damage tissue.
Compression- Wrap ankle to reduce swelling and bruising for up to a week
Elevate – The ankle above the heart for at least 2-3 hours a day more if you can for first couple of days
To prevent reoccurring injuries, the affected area must be strengthened and stretched on a regular basis. It may be helpful to wear a lateral stabilizing brace when engaging in strenuous activities, but to avoid future chronic pain you must rehabilitate correctly and strengthen the joints.