What is a sprained ankle?
An ankle sprain occurs when the ligament(s) of the ankle are stretched or torn. Most commonly this occurs on the lateral (outside) aspect of the ankle, but can also occur on the medial (inside) aspect as well. The ATFL (anterior talofibular ligament) is the most commonly injured ligament of the ankle.
What causes an ankle sprain?
Ankle sprains happen when the ankle is twisted or rolled, often during activities that require quick changes in direction or frequent jumping. Individuals who participate in basketball, volleyball, football, and soccer are at increased risk due to the physical demands of their sport. The mechanism of injury for a lateral ankle sprain is usually a combination of plantar flexion (pointing the foot down) and inversion (turning the foot inwards) while weight-bearing. It can also occur from simply stepping off a curb incorrectly.
How do I know how severe an ankle sprain is?
Ankle sprains are graded based on the amount of pain, swelling, and instability in the ankle joint following injury. Grade I ankle sprains occur when the fibers of the ligaments are stretched, but not torn. There may be some discomfort and small amounts of swelling, but function is not compromised. In a grade II sprain, several of the fibers are torn, resulting in pain, swelling, some loss of joint stability, and moderate loss of function. Grade II ankle sprains are the most common. Finally, a grade III ankle sprain is the most severe and entails complete rupture of one or more of the ankle ligaments. This will result in substantial loss of function and significant joint instability.
Is physical therapy beneficial in recovering from an ankle sprain?
Physical therapy is essential to making a full recovery from an ankle sprain. Without physical therapy, the likelihood for re-injury becomes much higher. Most ankle sprains can be treated and resolved within 2-6 weeks, but this will vary based on the severity of the injury and the sport/activity that the patient is trying to return to.
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