You throw a leg kick, it connects beautifully as always, but when you return to your stance you land awkwardly and roll over you ankle. It hurts, a lot. Welcome to your new ankle sprain! Ankle sprains are pretty common in everyday life, not just sports, but sudden changes of direction and turning to throw punches and kicks definitely increases the likelihood that you might end up twisting your ankle.
What is an ankle sprain?
Like other joints in your body your ankle is held in place by a series of ligaments. An ankle sprain is the term used when you over stretch (or in bad cases tear) one of these ligaments.
What causes an ankle sprain?
The most common way to cause a sprain is to twist your ankle – you’re very suddenly stretching the ligaments that hold your joint in place further than they’re meant to be stretched. They get broken down into 3 grades depending on how severe they are.
Grade 1 – Mild over stretch, you might get some bruising and swelling but you can still weight bear. Quick recovery time.
Grade 2 – Moderate sprain, overstretch injury with a partial tear. You ankle may feel unstable and hard to weight bear on. Longer recovery time.
Grade 3 – Complete ligament tear, severe bruising and swelling, very painful to weight bear and likely to feel really unstable. Longest recovery time.
Can I train through it or do I need to rest?
You’re probably going to need to rest it, though maybe not for very long. Most ankle sprains fit into the grade one category and are self diagnosed and self treated – you turn your ankle over, its painful so you cut training short, get some ice on it and take some anti-inflammatory painkillers and you’ll be fine in a couple days. The grade two and three sprains are going to be more painful and will require more time away from training.
Do I need to see my doctor?
Again, depends on the severity, but if it’s a bad grade 2, and definitely if its a grade 3, then you’re probably going to have to see your doctor.
What treatments are there?
The good news is that you probably won’t need surgery, even for a grade 3. Typically treatment involves managing pain and swelling and then giving you exercises to strengthen the muscles that support your ankle. This may take a few months of physio though, so you’ll have to be patient. If you’re still struggling with ankle stability after a period of exercise and/or you keep twisting your ankle you may need to have an operation to secure the ligament in place.
How do I prevent it reoccurring?
Strengthen the muscles in your lower leg to support your ankle and work on some dynamic movement exercises (like hopping in different directions) to improve your body’s awareness of where your ankle is in space.