With all those sudden side movements it’s no surprise that a sprained ankle is one of the most common injuries on the tennis court. And it’s not just stopping the amateurs from enjoying a set or two.
Big names like Roger Federer and Andrew Murray have all come crashing out of a game thanks to tearing, twisting or overstretching their ankle ligaments.
What happens when you sprain your ankle?
Ligaments are tough bands of tissue that attach the bones in the joint together. When these become damaged it is known as a sprain or twist. Ankle sprains are the most common of all sprains, and there are around 5,000 every day in the UK. In most cases the injury is caused by landing on the outside of the foot, with the foot turning too far inwards. This then results in the relatively weak lateral ankle ligaments becoming damaged. Less common is damage to the stronger medial ankle ligament on the inside of the ankle.
Symptoms of a sprained ankle
A sprain can be very painful, but that pain is not always felt instantly. There may be swelling and tenderness and you might find it hard to stand up on that foot.
Bruising or skin discolouration may also appear around the joint. Some people hear a 'pop' in their ankle, suggesting a sudden tear, or the damage may be caused by a build-up of smaller injuries.
- Protection - support the foot and ankle with appropriate shoes;
- Rest - rest your ankle for around 48-72 hours;
- Ice - apply ice for the first 48-72 hours to help reduce swelling. This should be for 15-20 minutes every two to three hours and the ice should not directly touch your skin;
- Compression - this should be snug but not too tight and can help to limit additional movement that could cause further damage;
- Elevation - try to elevate your ankle as much as possible.
Depending on the severity of the sprain any tenderness should subside in one to four weeks, but pain when you stand on the joint could continue for several months. In most cases you will be encouraged to move your ankle as soon as you are able to do so without severe pain as that can help the injury to heal faster: your physiotherapist can advise you on safe exercises to improve mobility and strengthen the joint to help prevent future strains.
Physiotherapy will aim to get your foot moving again after a couple of days rest. It will encompass balance training to help to restore stability to the ankle joint and strength training to help the muscles around the joint to support itself. The process can be long and patience is required. If not enough time is allowed, and the joint is used too forcefully, too soon, it can result in ongoing issues with ‘loose’ joints and ligaments.
Also take a look at the Q&A session we held with three of our experts, find out what they recommend for minimising tennis injuries on the court.
To book your consultation call us on 0800 404 6660.