Ankle sprain in sports

sports ankle sprain treatment

Ankle sprain in sports

With pre-season in full swing and the sporting season due to make a comeback this year, we’ve seen an increase in one of the most common field injuries; ankle sprains. 


How does an ankle sprain happen?

During sport, the most common mechanism is when an individual’s centre of gravity rolls over their ankle (forced plantarflexion and inversion of the ankle).  This usually occurs when the surface of play is uneven, reduced/increased friction on the ground vs the type of footwear on the individual, and central nervous system fatigue that causes a lack of control with gross and fine motor skills that can affect the ankle. 


What ligaments are affected in an ankle sprain?

There are 2 common ligaments that are involved (see figure 1): 

  1. Anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL)
  2. Calcaneofibular ligament (CFL)


Ankle sprains can be classified into 3 different grades:

Lateral ankle ligament anatomy

Source: Jak

(Figure 1. Ligaments commonly affected with differing severities)

Grade I: a slight stretch with small tears occurs. Typically, this will take 1-2 weeks of healing with Physiotherapy and rehab exercises. 

Grade II: a larger tear can be seen, but this will be classified as incomplete tear. Generally, will take 2-4 weeks of rehab. 

Grade III: you will see a complete tear of both common ligaments (as seen in figure 1). This will require 6-8 weeks of Physiotherapy and rehab exercises. 



What should I do if I sprain my ankle?

Immediately follow RICE protocol:

  • Rest 
  • Ice 
  • Compress 
  • Elevate 

On day 1 of an ankle sprain, encourage weight bearing (given that there are no fractures) on the affected ankle to assist with inflammation, swelling management and motor control of the foot and ankle.

Continue with weight bearing as tolerated and commence a Physiotherapy guided rehab program/treatment. 

What will a Physiotherapist do for an ankle sprain? 

Your Physiotherapist will go over a comprehensive assessment and history taking to understand the situation better. From there, your Physiotherapist will provide treatment to help alleviate further pain and dysfunction and will prescribe a specific rehabilitation program to strengthen and prevent further ankle sprains from occurring. 

sports ankle sprain treatment

What rehabilitation program will be given for my ankle? 

A comprehensive rehab program will be given focussing on the following:

  • Range of motion 
    • After a sprain, it is common to lose range in the ankle due to swelling 
  • Strength 
    • It is important that strength is restored, especially calf strength
  • Static & dynamic balance 
    • Static and dynamic balance is crucial for the ankle
  • Proprioceptive exercises 
    • This involves an external force/object that challenges the individuals base of support)
  • Sport/task specific exercises 
    • Any sports specific tasks/skills that can assist the individual to return to sport 

The above mentioned will be given and progressed accordingly to the capacity of the individual. 

If you feel as though your ankle injury needs to be seen by a professional book online or call us on (02) 9252 2825.

Post by: Physiotherapist  Ray Palencia