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  • Sarah Murphy

Ankle Injuries

By Sarah Murphy, Physiotherapist

Ankle sprains are common lower limb injuries that most commonly occur from misstepping and rolling your ankle whilst running, walking or playing sport.

They range in severity and therefore in recovery time frames. Due to the complex nature of the ankle joint and the numerous ligaments and supporting structures that may be damaged in an ankle sprain, imaging such as x-ray or MRI may be required for diagnosis. However, most ankle sprains can be diagnosed clinically and will then follow similar criterion-based rehabilitation before you can return to sport.

In the short-term, ankle sprains lead to swelling and bruising whilst your body produces a normal inflammatory response. During this acute phase, it’s important to protect the joint and ensure it can undergo its initial healing. This could involve using crutches or a moon boot to offload the vulnerable structures. Using compression and elevating the ankle when able can also improve outcomes and kickstart your early rehab by controlling swelling.

Once you're moving around day-to-day and weight-bearing normally through the injured side, your physiotherapist will help you regain range of motion, strength, balance and proprioception. This phase of rehab may involve hands-on physio treatment such as joint mobilisations and soft-tissue work to restore range and reduce remaining swelling. You’ll also be prescribed various exercises targeted towards improving strength, power and balance of the lower limb.

When you’re managing an acceptable amount of load in your strength work, we’ll look to progress you back into sport by returning to straight line running, acceleration and deceleration drills. We’ll get you started on some side-to-side plyometrics and sports-related skills to prepare you for starting change of direction, pivoting, and contact drills (if required).

It’s likely that throughout this process you may need your ankle taped ongoing. There is a high injury recurrence rate of ankle sprains so it’s important to continue high level exercises for the lower leg (including but not limited to calf raises and plyometrics). Additionally, it’s beneficial to strengthen the rest of the kinetic chain (glutes, hamstrings, quads, etc) and work on your overall movement mechanics beyond your rehab to prevent additional injuries and continue building resilience.

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