Sprained ankles are among the most common injuries—an estimated 25,000 Americans suffer a sprained ankle every day, and sprained ankles account for nearly half of all sports-related injuries. Because they are so common, a sprained ankle isn’t considered very serious. But is there more to a sprained ankle than we might think?
The ankles provide a base for the body, and they help us stand, walk, run and play sports. But ankles can also be very fragile. One wrong step can result in a sprain, strain, torn ligament or broken bones.
A simple ankle sprain is generally given little thought and is assumed to heal fully within a couple of weeks, but new research suggests that a sprained ankle could alter one’s movements for life. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, some studies suggest that as many as 40 percent of ankle sprains are misdiagnosed or poorly treated, which can lead to lifelong problems and disability.
Chronic ankle instability is a condition caused by ankle sprains in which the ankle easily gives out during movement. One recent study found that college students with this condition who were monitored for one week moved significantly less than students who had healthy ankles, taking an average of 2,000 fewer steps each day.
Simply put: If you’ve suffered one ankle sprain, you are more likely to suffer another.
What To Do If You Sprain Your Ankle
If you hurt your ankle, don’t brush it off. Schedule an appointment with your doctor. After an accurate diagnosis is made, treatment for a sprained ankle depends on the severity of the injury. Initial treatments commonly include R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression and elevation), which means that taking a break from activity and sports is usually necessary.
An evaluation by your doctor may determine that bracing, taping and/or anti-inflammatory medications may be needed during the healing process. The sooner you see your doctor and receive a diagnosis and treatment, the better your chances of complete recovery.
If you’ve suffered a sprained ankle, balance exercises can help keep your ankles strong so you can participate in the activities you love without worry. Balance training improves coordination of the muscles supporting the ankle. The ACSM estimates that balance exercises can reduce risk of reinjury by more than 50 percent. For some, preventing a future ankle sprain may also require the application of external ankle supports, such as tape or braces.
If you twist or hurt your ankle in some way, make an appointment to see your doctor or a physical therapist to accurately diagnose, treat and rehabilitate your ankle.