Understanding ankle sprains

A ‘sprain’ is the stretching or tearing of ligaments, commonly on the outside of the ankle.

Ligaments on the outside of the ankle are usually injured when the ankle is forced inwards.

Injury severity depends on the number of ligaments affected and the extent of the tear(s).

Ankle sprains are often minor and able to be managed with the RICER. principle (rest, ice, compress, elevate, rehab/referral).

Rehabilitation improves ankle mobility and strength to prevent future ankle sprains.

The most effective rehabilitation begins after 3-4 days with the help of a physiotherapist.

Sometimes, an ankle sprain damages the underlying bone(s).

A physiotherapist will advise whether bony damage is suspected and whether an x-ray is required.

Most ankle sprains recover within two or three weeks.

Complex or severe ankle sprains may need to be immobilised using a controlled ankle movement (CAM) boot, also known as a ‘moon boot’.

Immobilisation protects the injured ligaments and allows them to knit together, although a boot is not always required.

Rehabilitation includes