Ankle Sprains

Running on uneven surfaces like trails and even the roads can cause one to sprain an ankle.  Some say an ankle sprain is worse than a fracture.  Fractures are usually taken care by immobilization and activity restrictions.  The runner with a sprain often tries to return to running before the injury is completely healed.  This could put you at risk for a more server injury because the ankle is unstable.

Ankle sprains are usually caused by a sudden lateral or medial twist.  The most common ankle sprain is the  inversion sprain which is a result of  the foot to turning inward.  Lateral ankle sprains are graded by the ligaments involved in the injury.  A first degree sprain involves damage to the anterior talofibular ligament.  A second degree sprain involves damage to the calcaneofibular ligament.  A third degree sprain involves damage to the posterior talofibular ligament. The extent of ankle swelling is not the indicator of the severity of the injury.

The most common type of ankle sprain is the first degree sprain.  You may feel mild pain with local swelling over the ligament area and tenderness if the area is touched.  The best thing to do for this type of ankle sprain is ice for 20 minutes every few hours and limit running for a few days.  When the ankle is pain-free and not swollen try doing circle exercises (circle the foot 20 times in one direction and then 20 times in the other directions several times a day).  When you return running you may need to wear a wrap on the ankle to give it support.  The wrap will provide a comfortable pressure once you return to running.

Second degree sprains is a problem for athletes because it involves days of lost training.  This sprain the athlete usually complains about a tearing sensation followed by a pop or snap sound when the injury happened.  The ankle is swollen with tenderness at the sprain site.  Some ecchymosis (black and blue skin colorization) will be seen 3-4 days after the injury happened.  This ankle sprain can make the ankle unstable and pron to future sprains.  The best thing to do for this type of sprain is ice the area often for 24-72 hours.  The individual should get an x-ray and may need crutches for 5-10 days to keep weight off the ankle.  You may need to wear an air cast for a few days.  It is important to seek medical attention to give you the best results for a quick return to running.

Third degree ankle sprains are relatively uncommon is sports.  When it does happen it is very painful and disabling.  They complain of server pain in the area of the sprain, swelling and tenderness  occurs over the entire lateral side of the ankle.  This is the result of  three ligament being torn.  This best thing to do is seek medical attention and be patient rehab will take a while In some cases this type of ankle sprain the individual has a cast for 3 weeks followed by an air cast that can be removed for exercises.

Many ankle sprains can be reduced by properly stretching the Achilles tendon,  strengthening key muscles, wearing proper footwear and if needed taping an ankle that has been sprained before.


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