One of the most common and best-known injuries is a sprained ankle. This occurs when the connective tissue in the ankle, known as ligaments, stretch beyond their limits; the fibers of the ligaments can even tear if the sprain is severe enough. It can occur when you step on an uneven surface or twist your ankle; the most common ankle sprain occurs when the foot twists so the sole faces inwards, overstretching the ligaments on the outside of the foot. Sports in which you suddenly change direction increase your risk of an ankle sprain; these include tennis and basketball.
Symptoms of a sprain include a popping sound when you sprain it, quickly followed by swelling and pain. Swelling is a major factor in how quickly a sprain heals, so it’s important to minimize it as much as possible by applying ice to the ankle, keeping it elevated, and avoiding placing weight on it. Also avoid drinking alcohol, which can increase swelling, and do not apply hot packs. If you think you’ve sprained your ankle, take these measures and consult a physician as soon as possible to assess the severity.
The sports medicine specialist might take X-rays of your ankle to see whether you’ve broken any bones; other diagnostic tests might also be necessary to assess the damage to the ligament.
To treat a sprained ankle, you may need to use crutches to keep weight off of it. An ankle brace might also be necessary to provide additional support. Surgery is rarely necessary but may be recommended if more conservative methods don’t work. Once the ankle has healed, rehabilitation exercises likely will be recommended to regain strength and flexibility in the ankle and calf muscle.
To prevent a sprained ankle, warm up sufficiently before training; wear shoes that fit your feet well; and remain alert to your surroundings to avoid stepping on an uneven surface.