What should I do when I sprain my ankle playing sports?

Ankle sprains are among the most common injuries in high-intensity sports with lots of lateral movements, such as AFL, Netball, Basketball, and Soccer. The high-intensity nature combined with high amounts of stopping and starting and side-to-side movement required makes players highly susceptible to ankle sprains.


I’d like to discuss the importance of rehabilitation when it comes to spraining your ankle, particularly lateral sprains. Ankle sprains make up a large part of sports injuries. A player is 75% more likely to sprain their ankle again after their first ankle sprain, which may suggest that rehab isn’t taken as seriously as it should be. Ankle sprains can have the potential to cause chronic ankle instability as well as osteoarthritis down the track. Having played footy and basketball for many years it hurts me to see so much sports tape used on ankles to prevent ankle sprains and seeing rehabilitation neglected.


What actually happens when I sprain my ankle?

When an ankle is rolled the ankle joint is placed in an excessive inversion and plantarflexion moment, which can occur due to uneven surface, landing awkwardly, losing your footing, or trauma from another player’s body. This excessive movement has the potential to stretch or tear your anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) and your calcaneofibular ligament (CFL). The role of these ligaments is to keep the bones of the ankle together. There are three grades of lateral ankle sprains


Severity Damage to ligaments Typical recovery time
Grade 1 No tear, stretching 1-3 weeks
Grade 2 Partial tear 3-6 weeks
Grade 3 Fully ruptured 6+ weeks


If you are concerned you have done further damage to your ankles, such as fracturing any bones or a high ankle sprain (ankle syndesmosis) then further investigation may be required via imaging. Such injuries typically require longer recovery time than listed above and in worse cases, surgical intervention may be required.


What should I do directly after I sprained my ankle?

In the 48 hour period following an ankle sprain, it is important to ensure you gain the best chance of optimal recovery.

I like to recommend doing the POLICE acronym:

Protection (avoid any further trauma to the ankle)
Optimal Loading (minimize weight-bearing)
ce, compression

Doing these things, as well as avoiding HARM (Heat, Alcohol, Running, and Massage) may allow for a quicker inflammatory response within the first 48 hours, putting you in a greater position for a quicker recovery


How can we help you?

At TFC Podiatry we are experienced in identifying the severity of ankle sprains and creating personalized rehabilitation programs to get your ankle as strong as possible for your return to sport. We target strengthening of the muscles surrounding the ankle joint as well as improving proprioception (balance) that may have been lost. These two aspects are crucial in reducing the likelihood of reoccurring ankle sprains. We also stock CAM boots in cases where immobilization of the ankle is required.


Your appointment at TFC Podiatry begins with listening to your story

We want to know how your foot or ankle concerns impact your life and learn about your goals.