Waverley Park Physiotherapy Centre Common Injury Series


Article 1: Ankle Sprains: Ensure correct rehabilitation

Sprained/Twisted ankles are one of the most common sporting injuries, from weekend warriors to casual sporting people to elite athletes such NBA players.

And while it can initially be terribly painful and debilitating, to the point it is often confused with an ankle fracture, it is also one of the most under rehabilitated injuries seen by physiotherapists.   The reason for this is that the pain quickly subsides, however there secondary problems associated which are often ignored.

A sprained ankle is an injury to the ligaments in the ankle which protect and restrict excessive movement. The ankle is forced into extreme range, most commonly inward, until the ligaments tear.   There is often a loud crack or pop, which again confuses most people regarding fracture.   The ankle swells and bruises and can be very painful to walk on.

Hint: For immediate self -treatment refer to WPPC information on How to manage your injury

Warning: if unable to put ANY weight on the ankle after 12-24 hours, seek an X-Ray referral from your local GP.

Assuming the ankle bones are not fractured, early consultation with a physiotherapist can progress the patient to walking within a few days and running within a couple of weeks.

This is where patients most commonly cease physiotherapy and return to sport; however there are three issues that should be considered:

  • The ligaments take 4-6 weeks to knit together, and even once the pain subsides are weak for 8-12 weeks increasing the risk of re-injury during this period.
  • The muscles which control and stabilise the ankle are usually strained. It takes time and exercise (4-6 weeks) to regain normal function.
  • An ankle sprain ‘switches off’ the balance receptors in the foot.  This means reaction times to unstable footing, direction changes and disruption of normal running mechanics can all cause a fall where a normal person would merely stumble.   Worse, this fall with a weak ankle ligament can cause re-injury or even a worse injury.

It is important to complete a full 4-6 week course of physiotherapy, only return to sport when advised by your physiotherapist (commonly 3-6 weeks post injury) and continue with strengthening and balance exercises provided for a full 8-12 months.

About the Author: As a physiotherapist, state Touch Rugby representative and regular weekend sports warrior, Jordan Coleman has extensive experience in the treatment of common sports related injuries.

For consultation with Jordan Coleman at Waverley Park Physiotherapy Centre call on 97950668.