Ankle sprains happen beyond sports

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Ankle sprains happen beyond sports

Ankle sprains are common around the house and on the playing field.

The injury occurs when one or more of the ligaments in the ankle are stretched or torn, causing pain, swelling, and difficulty walking. Ligaments are bands of fibrous tissue that connect bone to bone.

The most common type of ankle sprain is an inversion injury, or lateral ankle sprain, according to the Harvard Medical School. This occurs when the foot rolls inward, damaging the ligaments of the outer ankle. Less common are sprains affecting ligaments of the inner ankle (medial ankle sprains). Syndesmotic sprains (“high ankle” sprains) are less common as well, affecting ligaments above the ankle and occurring mostly in high-contact sports.

Nearly all ankle sprains can be treated without surgery, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Even a complete ligament tear can heal without surgical repair if it is immobilized appropriately.

For mild sprains, home treatment may suffice using the “RICE” protocol immediately after the injury:

  • Rest the ankle by not walking on it.
  • Ice should be immediately applied to keep the swelling down. It can be used for 20 to 30 minutes, three or four times daily. Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
  • Compression dressings, bandages, or ace-wraps will immobilize and support the injured ankle.
  • Elevate the ankle above the level of the heart as often as possible during the first 48 hours.

Additionally, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can help control pain and swelling. In certain instances, crutches, a short leg cast or brace may be appropriate. Physical therapy can prevent stiffness, increase ankle strength, and prevent chronic ankle problems.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons notes that surgery is only necessary for injuries that fail to respond to nonsurgical treatment. Surgery also may be appropriate for patients who experience persistent ankle instability after months of rehabilitation and nonsurgical treatment.