Ankle Sprains & Recovery Time

With netball, soccer and football seasons well under way clinics are more likely to see an increase in ankle injuries.

The ankle joint is subjected to considerable loads. The ankle joint consists of 2 joints: the upper and the lower tarsal joint. Together, these two joints facilitate the movement of the ankle. The ankle is kept in the desired position by the capsula (supported by the ankle tendons) and a number of muscles.

An acute injury is generally caused as a result of landing on the outside of the foot, which itself is caused by disrupted balance. For example: by landing on another player's foot. The injury is caused by the straining of the tissue on the outside of the ankle, and the over-compression of the tissue on the inside of the ankle.

The main symptoms are acute pain, swelling and reduced ability of the affected ankle to support your weight. If the ankle is in a strange position, or can bear no weight whatsoever, it is wise to have an X-ray examination. This will make it possible to diagnose whether the ankle is in fact broken. In most cases the injury concerns an ankle sprain.

The acute ankle injury is the most commonly occurring sport injury. To prevent recurrence or worsening of an ankle injury, it has been scientifically proven that wearing an ankle brace or tape is worthwhile.

An overuse injury is caused because the burden to which the ankle joint is exposed is greater than the level of load the ankle joint can cope with. Overburdening of the ankle joint often occurs as a result of the residual symptoms following an earlier twisting of the ankle. Capsula and ligaments may have been permanently stretched as a result of the twisting. Without the correct exercise therapy and adequate protection (a brace), this can lead to overuse complaints. In addition, the cartilage may have been permanently damaged. As a result, the sportsman or woman has less shock absorbance, so the ankle is less able to withstand loading. This means that after sport, the ankle requires longer recovery times.

So what sort of recovery periods can we expect for severe sprains to the ankle and foot?

Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments that support the ankle become stretched or torn beyond there physiological limits. These types of sprains can be tricky, and the recovery period depends on the level of activity to which you are trying to return to, as well as the severity of the sprain that you have suffered.

The grades of ankle sprains are classified by the extent of damage to the ligaments:

  • Grade l: is a mild sprain with stretching and possible mild tearing of the ligaments - usually results in soreness without instability and possible mild swelling. Grade l sprains typically take 2-4 weeks or more to regain full mobility and for swelling to fully resolve
  • Grade 2: moderate sprain with partial tearing of the ligaments - usually results in moderate pain, some joint instability and swelling with bruising throughout the ankle and foot. Grade II sprains, being a little more severe; make take more like 6-8 weeks
  • Grade 3: severe sprain with gross joint instability and possible ligamentous rupture - usually results in severe pain with significant swelling and extensive bruising

Recovery time for Grade III sprain or avulsion fracture recovery time depends on several factors. Some physiotherapists and orthopaedic surgeons may determine that early immobilisation in a walking boot is necessary to allow the ligaments time to heal in type II and III sprains. In the event that there is a full rupture or avulsion fracture, it is possible that surgery will be required to reconstruct the ligaments. In cases where surgery is required, the patient is typically in therapy for 12 weeks to 6 months before return to play is allowed with most sports that require weight bearing

Brought to you by PUSH Braces & Supports

Push & PSB Sports braces can be used for strains and fracture recovery

Always follow the advice of your GP and physiotherapist and don't push yourself to get back into the game or other activities more quickly than is recommended.

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