Ankle sprains are the most common sports injury and occur thousands of time each week. Of course, they can also happen in daily life and high heels are responsible for many a sprained ankle! Intensely painful, they seriously disrupt daily living as well as get in the way of your continued enjoyment of sport.
Given that ankle sprains are the most common sports injury, it is surprising how little they are understood and how often the term is misused. A sprain is the term used to describe a painful lesion on one or more ligaments, without the joint being dislocated.
What are the ligaments? The ligaments link one bone to another to form a joint. They are made up of several bundles and they are especially vulnerable to sports injuries because they are not very easily extended. When there is a shock or an unnatural movement, the ligament can find itself stretched beyond the extent which it can comfortably accommodate.
In a mild sprain, this can be just a simple elongation of the ligament as it is stretched. In a severe sprain, the ligament may rupture completely.
Typical symptoms include pain and swelling. It’s time to get out the first aid kit! In the ankle, a sprain most commonly affects the external lateral ligament. This is the anterior talofibular ligament – which has the dubious claim to fame of being the most frequently sprained ligament in the human body.
This happens because of the foot twisting inwards. This is of course a very common sports injury as this can easily occur when running or jumping, especially if you land badly or have an accidental collision. When the full body weight bears down on the twisted ankle, the ligaments are stretched beyond their natural capacity, resulting in a sprain.
The best advice for how to deal with an ankle sprain can be remembered through the acronym PRICE. This is an easy way of remembering the regime ‘Protect, Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate’. Ankle supports and ankle braces offer a range of benefits. They can alleviate pain and also help the ligaments to heal as they aid compression and bring welcome rest to the affected ligaments. Ankle supports also help protect your ankle.
These days, ankle supports and ankle braces are usually made from elasticated material or neoprene. This aids with the degree of compression and helps support the joint, increasing stability. For the most serious ankle sprains, rigid ankle splints are used.
When returning to sporting activity after a trauma it is always a good idea to wear an ankle support to help injury prevention in future. This is because unfortunately after you have suffered one ankle injury, you are more likely to suffer another in future as the ligaments are likely to have been weakened.
This is why so many professional sportsmen have recurrent sporting injuries affecting their knee or ankle. So it is really important to wise up about injury prevention as well as how to use rehabilitation products effectively to recover from a sports injury.