Acute ankle sprains are some of the most prevalent injuries that occur in sports. There are three general types of ankle sprains seen in sport injuries. These are the lateral, medial, and high ankle sprains.
Lateral Ankle Sprain
The lateral ankle sprain, or inversion sprain, is the most common type of ankle sprain. Lateral sprains occur when the foot rolls inward and the ankle rolls outward. The anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) is the the most common ligament injured when an athlete rolls their ankle. The athlete often has pain and bruising on the outside of their ankle. The amount of pain and swelling varies depending on the severity of the injury.
Medial Ankle Sprain
The medial, or eversion sprain, is rare. The medial ankle sprains are often caused by the foot rolling outward and the ankle rolling inward, this motion is opposite of a lateral ankle sprain. The most common ligament injured during this type of movement is called the deltoid ligament. Pain and bruising is usually felt both on the inside and outside of the ankle.
High Ankle Sprain
A high ankle sprain, or sydesmotic sprain, is most often seen in sports such as football, hockey, and skiing. This type of sprain usually occurs during high impact while the foot is dorsiflexed and rolled outward. This type of movement drives the talus upwards and injures the ligaments that help hold the tibia and fibula together. Symptoms of high ankle sprains include pain and bruising, usually felt around the lower leg.
Chronic Ankle Sprains
Chronic sprains are usually associated with instability of the ankle and joints of the foot. The ankle often feels unstable, pain can be persistant, and recurrent ankle sprains are common. Any of the three acute ankle sprains listed above can turn into a chronic issue. Proprioception exercises are key to reducing the risk of chronic ankle sprains.
Treatment for Ankle Sprains
Sprained ankle treatment depends on the severity and type of sprain but most treatment plans include rest, compression, elevation, and supporting the area. Therapeutic exercises can be used to strengthen the ankle after an injury and are recommended. Proprioception training has been shown to reduce the likelihood of chronic ankle sprains and is key for rehabilitating the region. Early 90 degree immobilization at rest without compression has been shown to decrease recovery time. Early pain free range of motion exercises are recommended. Make sure to check in with your doctor about making any changes to your recovery plan.
When to seek treatment for an ankle sprain
It is important to see a doctor for a sprain if you have any of the following symptoms: inability to fluently walk 4 steps, a large amount of pain or swelling, swelling in an abnormal location, no improvement several days after the injury, if there are any signs of infection (warmth, redness, pain), or if the pain does not go away with rest.