Jeremie Aladiere, the Middlesbrough star football player has recently been laid up for eight weeks with an ankle injury. He is just the latest in a long line of casualties to suffer from an ankle injury, the most common of all sports injuries.
Why is the ankle so incredibly vulnerable to sports injury? It is more common in sports that involve a ‘side to side’ movement rather than a ‘straight ahead’ action. This includes football, rugby and all court games, such as tennis, basketball and squash, as well as athletics.
Running on level ground is unlikely to result in an ankle sprain – but if you take part in cross country running, you should watch out!
In fact, ankle sprains are so common that it is estimated that around 25,000 ankle sprains happen every single day in the USA.
One of the most worrying aspects for sports people is that once you have had an ankle sprain, you are very likely to have another one, as the ligaments never recover their original strength! The percentage figure for re-injury is really high, even as much as 70% amongst people who play basketball. It really is the most aggravating of sports injuries!
The kind of ankle injury most likely to have you reaching for the first aid box is an inversion ankle sprain. This is when the outer ligaments of the ankle are damaged. It is less common to suffer a sprain to the inner ankle ligaments.
The most common injury resulting from an inversion ankle injury is a partial tear of the anterior talo-fibular ligament. (ATFL)
So if the worst should happen, what should you do next?
It is vital that you carry out immediate sports first aid and have the ankle injury examined properly by a doctor as soon as possible. The grading of ankle injuries is officially done on a three point grading scale, which some doctors think is inadequate, but it is nevertheless the standard system.
This ranges from Grade 1, describing a mild stretch of the ligaments to Grade 3, which is used to describe a total tear.
When you are examined, the doctor will check all the main lateral ankle structures. An Xray is not usually done as a matter of routine, but will be carried out if you meet a number of particular criteria. These include if you are unable to bear weight for four steps or if you experience tenderness in particular spots, such as around the navicular bone.
For a minor ankle sprain, rest, ice, gentle compression and elevation may be enough to bring improvement, but for more serious sports injuries, needing more than first aid, a doctor may recommend a splint to wear to prevent further ankle inversion and you may need to use crutches for a while.
As the sports injury continues to heal, your doctor will recommend particular exercises, such as side to side activity and circular movements. You will not be ready to go back to sports until you can walk down the stairs without any pain or hop on the affected foot four times without experiencing any pain.
Once you have suffered an ankle injury and all the pain and inconvenience it can bring, you are bound to want to do everything possible to avoid re-injury.
It is a really good idea to wear an ankle support to increase the chances of injury prevention and keep your ankle safe in future. Ankle supports are the kind of product that are often never considered until it is too late and there has already been a sports injury.
However, by taking a proactive approach to injury prevention and using an ankle support or ankle brace, you can help reduce the risk of having to sit on the sidelines.