Almost every week a player in an NFL game sprains his ankle. This is a common injury in most running sports including soccer, rugby and track. It occurs commonly in court sports like tennis and racquetball. It is seen often in gymnastics and on a trampoline.
Ankle Injuries occur typically from twisting your ankle in inversion. This means your foot comes under your body or actually your body goes over your foot and ankle which is planted on the ground. You may hear a “pop” or just have sudden sharp pain. The ankle will typically swell immediately or within 2 hours as the blood leaks from the torn ligament to underneath the skin. An ankle sprain is just stretching or tearing the ligament that connects 2 bones of your ankle, namely the fibula and the talus. Most ankle sprains are on the outside part of the ankle, but these can also be on the inside part.
If you injure your ankle, it is important to make sure it is not broken. If you can walk on it with minimal pain, it is not likely to be fractured. If it hurts a lot or you cannot walk on it, you need to get an x-ray. It is not urgent to go the hospital emergency room unless it is an open injury or you think you may have dislocated it. Immediately ice it and elevate it and call your local orthopedic specialist to be seen ASAP. My office policy is if you need to be seen urgently, we will see you the same day. We will take an x-ray to confirm that there is no fracture.
If it is just a sprain, you should be able to get back to full normal activities including sports anywhere from a few days to up to 6 weeks after the injury. If you don’t recover quickly, therapy may help. Strengthening the tendons around the ankle will help with the healing. If you are not improving, you should get an MRI to make sure an occult fracture was not missed.
As with other injuries, the best way to treat an ankle injury is to prevent it. Wear good shoes, sneakers or cleats that are tied snugly and fit well. Once your footwear has worn down, throw them out and get new ones. Most injuries will occur when you are fatigued, so be more careful at the end of a game or workout.
If you injure your ankle, ice it and elevate it. If you cannot bear weight on it, get it checked and get an x-ray. Keep your local orthopedic sports medicine specialist’s office number on your cell and don’t hesitate to call and get checked.
Rick Weinstein, MD, MBA