Ankle injuries are one of the most common orthopaedic injuries. A lot of ankle injuries are thought of as sports injuries but they can also occur just from walking on uneven surfaces or tripping over a curb. They can occur at any age and they are one of the more frequent injuries in our orthopedic clinic.
The treatment for ankle sprains depends on the severity. You can have a mild, moderate, or severe injury. The grade one is a mild injury, which requires ice and elevation and usually you are able to walk on the ankle with some mild swelling. You do not necessarily need to have a splint or cast for that. Usually it will resolve on its own over a few days. Most often a stretching and strengthening program will resolve the problem.
The second type, the grade 2 ankle injury, is more severe. There is usually a partial tear of ligaments within your ankle. Most times a boot or splint is used to immobilize the ankle. Usually after a few days, the pain will resolve and a motion and exercise program can be started. Usually some physical therapy for this ankle injury will help gain full use.
The grade 3 is the most severe injury where there is a complete tear or rupture of one of the ligaments on the outside of your ankle. It usually takes longer to heal. It can be treated with immobilization with a boot or a cast and followed by a longer period of physical therapy to regain the range of motion and strength. Occasionally, this type of ankle injury can result in instability and may require surgery, but that is very unusual.
On any ankle injury, the initial treatment is usually using the RICE method. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation above your heart. This treatment is very good initially following the injury but you should not leave the ice on for more than 20 minutes at a time because you do not want to burn your skin. Heat is not indicated in an acute injury. It would then be necessary to follow-up with an orthopedist.
The methods that we can recommend for reducing the risk of ankle injury would be; avoid exercises or playing sports when you are tired or in pain. Wear shoes that are appropriate for the activity that you are doing. Maintain the proper conditioning for whatever sport you are playing; and of course, a warm up and stretching exercise for your heel cord is very important. Also, running on flat surfaces makes you much less prone to injury than on an irregular surface where you have the propensity to turn your ankle. Also, if you are hiking, it would be beneficial to wear shoes that give support to your ankle due to rough surfaces.
The main thing to prevent ankle injuries is proper shoe wear and stretching exercises before you play your sport.