Sport injury series: Ankle sprain Q&A

Ahmad Malik With summer on our doorstep, we are becoming more active and prone to sports injuries. Our Q&A series will cover the more common sports injuries, how to prevent them or treat them.

Mr Ahmad Malik, Consultant Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeon at BMI The Chiltern Hospital and BMI The Shelburne Hospital, offers his insights on a rather common sports injury: the ankle sprain. Mr Malik explains how we can injur this area, what are the treatment options and the recovery. Mr Malik also explains what happens when you injur your Achilles tendon.

Mr Ahmad Malik
An ankle sprain is an injury to one or more ligaments around the ankle joint. The ligaments are tough tissue that hold bones together and help provide stability to joints.

Mr Ahmad Malik
The most common symptom is pain, swelling and instability (a sense of weakness, perceived or actual giving way of the ankle).

Mr Ahmad Malik
It depends on the severity of the sprain. In mild cases the ligament may only be stretched, in more severe cases the ligaments are completely ruptured and may be associated with other injuries to the bone, cartilage and tendons. 

In mild cases where there is no bruising and no difficulty walking – RICE regime is recommended, this stands for rest, ice (a pack of peas wrapped in a tea towel will do), a compression bandage (to help reduce the swelling and give some support) and elevation (keeping the foot elevated above the hip). 

If there is significant bruising and swelling and inability to weight bear then a review by a doctor and an x-ray is recommended to exclude a fracture (a break in the bone) and grade the severity of the injury. Significant injuries even without an obvious break may benefit from a period of non weight bearing in a plaster or removable boot with crutches. Rarely injuries even without an obvious fracture may require surgery. 

After the acute phase physiotherapy is an important part of the rehabilitation and treatment program.

Mr Ahmad Malik
A typical ankle sprain should recover after 2 weeks, if an ankle isn’t better after 3 months it can be described as a chronic sprain. 

The first thing to do is ascertain what the problem is, pain, instability or both. Then to diagnose what the underlying cause is. A review by a foot and ankle orthopaedic specialist is recommended who will examine and arrange further tests of the ankle. 

Treatment depends on the underlying diagnosis, severity of injury and patient requirements. The goal of any treatment is to return the ankle to a pain free state and one that is stable allowing for a full return to pre injury activity.