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Lateral ankle sprain

Also referred to as an inversion sprain

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What is an ankle sprain?

Ankle sprains occur when the foot is bent too far in one direction relative to the leg and the ligaments that hold the foot in place become over stretched or slightly torn.

The most commonly injured ankle ligament is probably the Anterior Talo-Fibular Ligament (ATFL). This is the ligament at the front on the outside of the ankle. This is often caused when you roll over on the outside of your ankle – known as an “inversion sprain”, or a lateral ankle sprain.

The lateral ankle also has two other main ligaments called the Posterior Talofibular Ligament and the Calcaneofibular Ligament. It is possible to sprain these too.

How can I help myself?

If ankle sprains keep reoccurring or are left untreated, they can lead to chronic pains and problems, changes to the cartilage in the ankle (osteochondral defects) and ankle osteoarthritis. So if you are suffering from this problem, it is important that you don’t ignore it.

Sometimes sprains occur because of trauma or an unlucky injury, other times, the shape of your foot can predispose you to the problem. See “high arches” for example.

If you sprain your ankle, following the POLICE acronym (see important safety information) in the short term may help. If it is a serious injury, you should attend A and E as an X-ray may be needed to rule out a fracture.

If you are prone to ankle sprains, but don’t have a specific or current injury, strengthening exercises may be useful to help rehabilitate the area. Avoiding footwear that puts you at more risk of spraining the ankle is important too, like unstable heeled shoes for example.

When to see a Podiatrist?

Ankles sprains are a common problem we see in Podiatry, but all too often people come to see us a long time after having had the original injury, or perhaps they tell us that this has happened multiple times. This is common because people seem to be at more risk of recurrent ankle sprains after it has happened the first time. This is because the ligaments and other soft tissues become more lax and the nerves that control movement and help protect us can become less responsive.

If you have a recurring problems or have a pain that is not getting better, seeing a Podiatrist is a good idea. We try to firstly ascertain the level of injury and the history of the injury (if it is a recurring problem). We may also use something called the Ottawa Ankle Rules if we are concerned about a fracture. We often find people have been to A and E and may have even had x-rays, but unless there was an avulsion fracture, where a bit of bone comes away with the ligament, it is unlikely the x-rays will show anything if it’s a sprain.

People are usually told to rest at the time, which is appropriate to begin with (see important safety information)

However it is after the period of initial rest, assuming that there was not significant soft tissue damage or any deformity, that we can reassess.

We may advise further imaging, strengthening exercises, footwear advice and even foot orthoses based on your underlying biomechanics and the mechanism and history of the injury.

So if you are recovering from a sprain but aren’t happy with your progress, or if you have recurrent ankle sprains, then contact a podiatrist and book in for a consultation.

If you book an appointment, it is wise to take your commonly used footwear so the Podiatrist has a good idea what you are wearing.

Ankle sprain