(February 2021) Training for early spring sports unfortunately brings some quite common injuries. We see ankle strains and sprains in children and teens whether from overuse, lack of conditioning, or just because they are back on the field of play again!
What Sports Produce the Most Strains?
Ankle sprains are common, especially in sports that involve cutting like soccer or lacrosse. In addition, these ankle-impacting sports usually involve uneven ground. A sprain occurs when the strong ligaments in the ankle stretch beyond their limit and tear.
Most ankle sprains are minor and will heal with home treatment including rest, ice and elevation. If serious swelling and pain make it too painful to walk, seek medical attention. Severe sprains that are not properly treated early on and rehabilitated appropriately can potentially weaken the ankle and make it prone to reinjury.
How Do I Know if I Have an Ankle Sprain?
The lateral ligaments on each side of the joint are impacted in ankles strains and sprains as the foot or ankle twists unexpectedly. We grade sprains on the amount of tearing, from mild and microscopic to high ankle sprains that may require surgery.
- Tenderness to the touch
- Instability – when there is a complete tear of the ligaments
- May hear or feel a “pop”
A severe sprain may feel much like a fracture or broken bone, and you should have a physician examine the ankle as soon as possible. How much can you move? Where is it tender? A physician may call for X-rays to rule out a fracture.
How Do I Treat a Sprained Ankle?
Most ankle strains and sprains are treated successfully without surgery – even a complete tear. Home treatments include the RICE protocol:
R = Rest your ankle by not walking on it. Crutches may be recommended for a few days.
I = Ice immediately to help with swelling. Use 20-30 minutes, three to four times a day, do not apply ice directly on the skin.
C = Compression dressing with bandages or ace wraps to immobilize and support the ankle.
E = Elevate the ankle above the level of the heart as often as able in the first 48 hours.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, like ibuprofen or naproxen, can help alleviate pain and swelling. For moderate or severe sprains your doctor may recommend a removable boot or air-cast and sometimes a cast may be recommended. Physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises are important to prevent stiffness, improve strength and prevent chronic ankle problems. Balance training – or proprioception – will ensure a steady return to action. No need to just grin and bear it– we’re here to help!