Lateral ankle sprains are the most common type of ankle sprains. These sprains happen after an inversion injury or inward rolling of your foot on your ankle and affect the ligaments on the outside of your ankle. They most commonly occur in sports, especially seen in basketball and football, but also can occur in everyday activity. The lateral ankle is composed of three major ligaments, the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL), the calcaneal fibular ligament (CFL), and the posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL). There are varying degrees of severity of ankle sprains, but the most commonly injured ligament is the ATFL.
Certain people are more prone to ankle sprains than others, especially those with a higher arch foot or those who have had a severe or multiple sprains in the past. It is normal after suffering from a sprain to have varying levels of swelling and bruising. The most important thing following a sprain is over the first 24-72 hours to practice the pneumonic RICE. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Studies also show that initiation of early range of motion is key in the recovery process. Once the swelling goes down, then strengthening of the muscles around the ankle joint should be initiated to help prevent chronic ankle instability. Taping, bracing, and balancing exercises also can help in preventing re-injury. Most people start to feel better after a sprain over a couple of days, but in the case of severe sprains this could take several weeks to recover. If you develop a sprain that is not improving over a couple days, especially if you have followed the pneumonic RICE, then make sure you schedule an appointment with your doctor.
-Dr. Colleen Law