By Michael Joseph, DPT Student
Ankle sprains are a common injury; in the United States there is an incidence rate of 2.15 ankle sprains per 1000 people every year. Nearly half of all ankle sprains (49.3%) occurred during athletic activity, with basketball (41.1%), football (9.3%), and soccer (7.9%) being associated with the highest percentage of ankle sprains during athletics.
This article will focus on lateral ankle sprains, which occur as a result of excessive ankle inversion, when the foot rolls inwards under the leg. The three lateral ligaments that may be affected are the anterior talofibular ligament, calcaneofibular ligament, and posterior talofibular ligament. Ankle sprains are divided into three categories: Grade I, where the ligament is stretched and may have slight tears. Grade II where the ligament is partially torn. And Grade III where the ligament is completely torn.
The PRICE (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) protocol is an important part of treatment during the acute phase, as it is an effective method for reducing pain and inflammation. However, combining PRICE with exercise may be more beneficial. A randomized controlled trial from Bleakley, et al. evaluated the effectiveness of accelerated rehab after an ankle sprain. One group of subjects followed the PRICE protocol for the first week after injury and then began exercise rehab during the following four weeks. The experimental group began the PRICE protocol and exercise rehab immediately, during the first week post injury, and then followed the same 4 week exercise rehab. The authors stated the early exercises were from a “general protocol” that included ankle range of motion and strengthening exercises. The study found short term outcomes (4 weeks) were significantly better in the group that began exercising immediately, but there was no significant difference in long term outcomes (16 weeks).
Rehabilitation and Prevention:
There is some evidence to support that taping and/or bracing is effective at reducing the risk of recurrent ankle sprains in sports. However, the decision between tape or bracing depends on the individual and the requirements of the sport. There is no evidence that one is significantly more effective than the other.
Kerkhoffs et al, identified four intrinsic risk factors that predispose individuals to lateral ankle sprains: strength, proprioception, range of motion, and balance. A rehab exercise protocol should address all four of these risk factors in order to prepare the athlete to return to sport and to prevent recurring sprains. Proprioception exercises should be sport specific and should focus on the demands of the sport. For example, a basketball player’s program needs to include takeoff and landing ankle mechanics in an square stance (jump shot) and off of one leg (lay up).
Blog Post written by Michael Joseph, DPT Student at Mount Saint Mary’s University. Michael is currently in his final Clinical Rotation with me at Catz Physical Therapy Institute.
- Bleakley CM, O’connor SR, Tully MA, et al. Effect of accelerated rehabilitation on function after ankle sprain: randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2010;340:c1964.
- Kerkhoffs GM, Van den bekerom M, Elders LA, et al. Diagnosis, treatment and prevention of ankle sprains: an evidence-based clinical guideline. Br J Sports Med. 2012;46(12):854-60.
- Waterman BR, Owens BD, Davey S, Zacchilli MA, Belmont PJ. The epidemiology of ankle sprains in the United States. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2010;92(13):2279-84.