The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Spring Sports Injuries: Answers to 3 Important Questions Regarding Ankle Sprains

Posted by on Thursday, April 17th, 2014

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No one wants to start off the spring sports season with a bum ankle, but injuries are extremely common at the start of track & field, baseball, lacrosse, and tennis. After a long winter, athletes are not always as finely-tuned as they’d like to be. One study of college athletes found that ankle sprains were the most common sports injury, making up 14.9% of all injuries.

ankle sprain
Ankle sprains are common sports injuries at the start of spring.
Image source: ADAM via ucsf.org

 

Parents often call The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in New York City to ask three main questions about their children’s ankle injury…

How do ankle sprains happen?

Roughly 85% of ankle sprains involve injury to the lateral ligaments on the outside of the ankle. A sprain typically occurs when the ankle rolls or rotates, while bearing the full weight of the athlete. This causes the ligaments of the ankle to stretch and sometimes tear. The extent of injury depends upon the amount of force.

Some individuals tumble and suffer some pain, but are able to bear weight on the ankle and return to the sport immediately. However, others may find it uncomfortable to run and jump following such an injury, and should be evaluated by a professional.

How are they treated?

When a patient comes to our office, we ask a few questions about medical history and perform a visual exam. Whether sprained or broken, the ankle will generally exhibit bruising and swelling. An anterior drawer test will be performed to gauge the severity of the injury.

With a Grade 1 sprain, there has been slight stretching and some damage to the ligament fibers. The athlete can usually walk without crutches and be treated with RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). Over-the-counter medication can be taken for pain relief.

With a Grade 2 sprain, there has been partial tearing of the ligament. There is pain, swelling, and bruising, but the athlete can still take a few unassisted steps. Again, RICE treatment is prudent. We may advise that your child wear a special walking boot to avoid further injury. We usually recommend physical therapy, as well, because range of motion and strengthening exercises are required to prevent future sprains.

A Grade 3 sprain indicates a complete tear of the ligament. The pain is significant, with swelling and bruising present. Walking is very difficult, if possible at all. If suspected, we will take an x-ray to make sure the ankle is not fractured. Often, we choose to cast a Grade 3 sprain to fully immobilize the joint for several weeks and facilitate total healing. From there, the athlete can transition into a lace-up ankle brace and begin physical therapy.

If your child has suffered multiple sprains, surgical ligament reconstruction may be necessary to prevent further degeneration and future re-injury.

ankle injury
Basic at-home treatment may be all that is needed for an ankle sprain, but it’s best to have a professional take a look at it to make sure it’s just a mild sprain.
Image Source: SportsInjuryClinic.net

How long does it take an ankle sprain to heal?

Most ankle sprain injuries fully recover in six to eight weeks. When the ankle pain persists and full mobility is not achieved within that time-frame, an MRI can identify cartilage degeneration or tendon tears. After a few months, the athlete can usually walk without much discomfort and resume day to day activities. Return to sports play is another matter. The athlete is usually in physical therapy for three to six months before they are able to compete again.

It’s important to take ankle injuries very seriously and to seek proper treatment. It’s unfortunate for dedicated athletes to have to miss out on future involvement in sports simply because an injury did not receive appropriate care or recovery was rushed. Here at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in New York City, we see many individuals who are suffering from sports injuries. We work with each patient to determine the best treatment and recovery plan, and offer the latest breakthrough technologies to aid in healing. Contact us today to set up an appointment with one of our highly trained doctors.

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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.