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Ankle sprains

Ankle sprains are the most common sports injury, and effect a large amount of the general/non-sporting population too, with 100,000s of people attending emergency departments each year.

A sprain refers to the overstretching or damage to ligaments, stretchy bands of tissue which connect bone to bone and prevent joints from moving excessively. This usually results in sometimes a scary amount of bruising and swelling, along with pain. Despite this, it is uncommon to have "broke" or fractured the ankle, and unless you are really unable to weight bear through the foot, really, an x-ray is often unnecessary.

Lateral ligaments are more commonly injured as the ankle often rolls in. The amount of swelling and bruising is often indicative of the severity of the sprain.

Ligament injuries are graded:

- Grade 1: overstretching, not too bad - 0-2 weeks healing time

- Grade 2: partial tearing of ligament - 3-5 weeks healing time

- Grade 3: complete tear/rupture - 5 weeks to 1 year healing/rehab time! (can take a lot longer than we think!)

It is important to see a physiotherapist so that a suitable rehabilitation programme is set, appropriate to the grade of sprain, with gradual exercise progression to return you to activity.

When a ligament is sprained, the mechanoreceptors within the ligament become affected, which alter the ankles stability. Exercise is an integral part of recovering from an ankle sprain. It is used to improve range of movement, strength and proprioception/balance following injury.

Proprioception deficits are a big risk factor to recurrent sprains. Balance training has been shown to be one of the most effective treatments at prevent further injury. Improving the stability of the ankle will improve the body's natural bracing mechanism.

Physiotherapy and early exercise can help prevent recurrent injuries, and is associated with a quicker recovery time, return to sports, and long term outcome.

Physiotherapy often includes:

- taping if acute

- manual therapy and exercise to improve range of movement

- strength training and balance work

- programme design to return you to sport/activity

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