For one of the most common forms of sports injury, the severity of an ankle sprain can often be underestimated. Less than half of all people who sprain their ankle will seek medical help. As a result of this, ankle sprains have a very high recurrence rate and 30-50% of “sporty” people will suffer from pain, swelling and instability in later life.
After an ankle sprain, most people will return to sport much sooner than they should. The common misconception is that once the pain has resolved, the ankle is better again. However, during the time spent with pain, swelling and bruising after the sprain, a degenerative process takes place which weakens the muscles and ligaments that support the ankle. If this is not addressed before returning to sport, it is highly likely that you will re-sprain the ankle at some point.
The good news is that two very simple interventions have been proven to significantly reduce the risk of recurring ankle sprains:
Exercise – a 6-week period of progressive and specific exercises that incorporate strength, balance, proprioception, plyometrics and stretching reduced the risk of reoccurrence by 42%. Also, after the programme the patients’ performance improved when they did return to sport.
Bracing/Taping – It is recommended that a brace or taping be used during sport/exercise for at least 6 months after an ankle sprain. To be clear, this is not to be worn all the time, only when performing your chosen sport or activity.
So next time you sprain your ankle, don’t ignore it, rehab it correctly and you will reap the rewards later down the line!
Doherty et al. (2016), Treatment and prevention of acute and recurrent ankle sprain: an overview of systematic reviews with meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2017 Jan;51(2):113-125