The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Looking at the Numbers: NYC Ankle Specialists Discuss 8 Ankle Sprain Statistics

Posted by on Friday, February 5th, 2016


The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in NYC is one of the top choices for ankle sprain diagnoses, treatment, and rehabilitation. Whether you just need a little help with immobilization and physical therapy or are one of the rare cases requiring surgery, our team is here to help! Here are eight ankle sprain statistics and details on recovering without residual pain or chronic instability.

ankle sprain statistics
Ankle sprain treatment depends on the location and severity of tear. Image source: Flickr CC user AndriuXphoto

1. Ankle sprains account for 1 million physician visits per year.

That’s one ankle sprain for every 10,000 people in America, according to the American Academy of Family Practice. Professional football and basketball players are most likely to sprain their ankles, but it’s also a common injury among non-athletes as it can occur when people step off a curb the wrong way or stumble.

2. Most patients resume normal activities within 8 weeks of a lateral ankle sprain.

With rest, ice (20-30 minutes, 3-4 times a day), compression wrapping, and elevation (particularly for the first 48 hours), most patients will bounce back fully within a month or two. Here in our sports medicine office, we will diagnose your sprain as a grade 1, 2, or 3 ligament tear. Grade 1 tears can easily be addressed using the aforementioned protocols. Grade 2 tears may require additional immobilizing splints for healing. Grade 3 tears often require two to three weeks of casting. For extreme pain and swelling, we also offer non-invasive ultrasound, laser, and electrical stimulation therapies to help you heal faster and more comfortably. Our physical therapy team offers balance, agility, and range-of-motion programs to ensure full mobility.

3. Ten to thirty percent of patients with Grade 3 ankle sprains have chronic pain.

An estimated 10 to 30% of ankle sprain sufferers have functional instability causing their chronic pain. The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society states that “Incomplete or inadequate rehabilitation is the most common reason for residual problems.” These issues include:

  • Loss of motion (particularly rotating in the direction where the sprain occurred)
  • Lack of balance and coordination (from damage to the ligament/brain communication channels)
  • Atrophy (stiffness in the ankle that can lead to knee, hip, and back problems with time)
  • Peroneal tendinopathy (pain, swelling, warmth, and weakness caused by inflammation, tearing, or dislocation).

4. High ankle injuries represent just 1% of all ankle sprains.

High ankle sprains (also called tibiofibular syndesmosis injuries) are relatively uncommon, but occur with some frequency among court, football, and hockey players. Recovery time takes almost twice as long (55 days, compared to 28 days with lateral sprains). Playing surfaces (artificial turf) and athletic gear (such as lighter weight cleats that offer more mid-foot bend) may be to blame for some of these cases, but these theories are still under investigation.

5. An estimated 20-40% of high ankle sprain patients suffer recurrent sprains.

Chronic instability and recurrent sprains are more common among high ankle sprain patients than lateral ankle sprain patients. Progressive osteoarthritis can also develop in the affected ankle. Proper rehabilitation is key to successful long-term recovery. We follow a three-phase rehabilitation program here at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine:

  • Acute phase – Immediately after injury, we immobilize the ankle and explain your weightbearing restrictions. We offer a variety of painless, therapeutic options to reduce inflammation and pain. Gentle resistance exercises help you maintain muscle size and strength.
  • Sub-acute phase – Next we aim to normalize your range of motion through neuromuscular strength training.
  • Advanced training phase – Lastly, we move onto agility, plyometrics, proprioception, and sport-specific training to get you back to the game with full strength and skill.

6. Fifteen to twenty percent of cases of ankle sprain-related instability are treated surgically.

Though the vast majority of patients heal without invasive measures, ankle sprain statistics show that as many as 15 to 20% of ankle sprain instability cases require surgical intervention. Goals of surgery are to re-establish stability and function, without complications or compromising range of motion. Our board-certified NYC ankle surgeons are trained in many different procedures and will discuss the appropriate strategy for your recovery.

7. Surgery patients generally return to play in four to six months.

Often, surgical intervention involves the placement of hardware like plates and screws to stabilize the ankle during the healing process. Return to full contact activity generally occurs 4-8 weeks after hardware removal with a total healing time of four to six months, depending on the patient’s specific injury and position. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive recovery program that helps you maintain strength, agility, and skills, despite limitations on mobility.

Rehabilitation protocols vary, but generally you can expect to be in a neutral weight-bearing cast for two to three weeks, transitioning to a CAM walking boot. Physical therapy can then begin, with inversion activities avoided for 12 weeks. In-line running can begin at 8-10 weeks on an anti-gravity treadmill or in the water. Cutting activities are avoided for 14-16 weeks. Sport-specific conditioning may begin around month 4-5 post-op. In extreme cases, it could take up to a year for full rehabilitation. 

8. Success rates as high as 95% have been reported for ankle surgery outcomes.

Modified Broström lateral-ligament repair is one of the most common ankle surgery procedures, but there are many others to choose from, including the Chrisman-Snook procedure and the Evans procedure. Seeking attention from a NYC ankle specialist is the best way to ensure the quickest and most complete recovery from an ankle sprain. Contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (with offices in Manhattan and Westchester) to receive comprehensive care for your ankle injury.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.