A sprained ankle is one of the most common injuries to the body and can happen to athletes and non-athletes alike. In fact, around 25 000 people experience some form of a sprained ankle on a daily basis. There are a wide variety of factors that can cause a sprained ankle. You may roll your ankle and sprain it while playing basketball or by simply walking on an uneven surface. A sprained ankle is an injury to the ligament. When the ligament stretches beyond its usual range, a sprain occurs. In a severe sprain, the ligament is actually slightly torn. Symptoms of a sprained ankle include bruising and swelling to go with pain. Pain usually occurs when you place weight on the injured ankle/foot, but it can linger. There may also be a restricted range of motion.
A sprain occurs when a ligament in the ankle stretches or tears because the ankle is moved out of its normal position. This can be caused by a fall that causes your ankle to twist or by landing awkwardly on your foot after pivoting or jumping. Thus, a sprained ankle is a common injury while playing basketball. The risk of an ankle sprain is at its highest during sports that involve explosive side-to-side motion, such as basketball or tennis. It can also happen to non-athletes who walk on an uneven surface and end up rolling their ankle. Other factors that can contribute to an ankle sprain are poor ankle flexibility, shoes with inadequate heel support, lack of stretching or warm-up, or running on uneven surfaces. High ankle sprains are very common in ice hockey, football, baseball, volleyball, tennis, rugby, lacrosse, and basketball. High ankle sprains are generally more severe than regular ankle sprains and take much longer to heal.
The treatment required for an ankle sprain depends on how severe the injury is. Most ankle sprains can be treated at home by following the RICE protocol. Make sure you rest – this includes avoiding walking or placing any kind of weight on the ankle. Ice the injured ankle for approximately 20 minutes at a time, several times throughout the day. Make sure the ice pack is wrapped in a thin towel to avoid damaging the skin. Compress the ankle with an elastic bandage, and make sure it is elevated above the level of your heart to help reduce pain and swelling. For most ankle sprains, over-the-counter pain medications are enough to handle the pain. If the pain is severe and the RICE treatment does not seem to be working, you should see a doctor. If your ankle joint is unstable, you may need a walking boot or cast to immobilize your joint. If you have a severe ligament tear or are an elite athlete, you may need surgery. If the ankle hurts but is not swollen, an orthopedic walking boot is usually recommended.
The healing time for a sprained ankle depends on the severity of the sprain. A mild sprain which is treated properly can be healed within a week or so, while more moderate sprains may linger for months. Rehabilitation involves restoring range of motion and strength so you can return to the level you were at before the injury. You need to give the injured ankle the ability to regain proper flexibility and strength. Training and exercises to help improve balance and stability are important to improve the ankle muscles and support the joint. You may be required to wrap your ankle with tape or wear a brace during play to protect it from re-injury. To prevent a sprained ankle, make sure you warm up and stretch properly before playing sports or exercising. Wear shoes that fit, and be careful when walking on uneven surfaces. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has more information on how to rehab and treat a sprained ankle.