While ankle sprains are somewhat common in the world of high school sports, not all sprains are alike! That’s why it’s crucial for a teen athlete to know when he or she has sprained an ankle, and when the injury is less or more severe. The good news is that it’s possible to treat sprained ankles effectively, and to take preventative measures to reduce their occurrence in high school sports.
A sprained ankle involves the pulling or tearing of ligaments. Interestingly, the reason why the injury isn’t referred to as a “strain” is that a strain always refers to an injury involving a muscle.
It’s important to note that there are various types of ankle sprains. The most common one is an “inversion sprain“, causing the ankle to twist until the foot’s sole faces inward. This causes damage to the ligaments contained on the ankle’s exterior. A less common type of ankle sprain is a “medial ligament sprain.” This involves damage to a ligament known as the “anterior talofibular.” The ligament links the ankle bone with the fibula. What’s the fibula? That’s the lower leg’s smaller bone. Major sprains also involve something called the “calcaneofibular” ligament, which links the heel bone and the fibula.
Ankle strains can also involve damage to joint tissues, such as tendons and bones. Remember that it’s always crucial to get an X-ray after potential ankle sprains, to determine what (if any) damage has occurred.
Ankle sprains’ most common cause is an athlete putting too much weight on his or her foot, when it’s in an everted or inverted position. This oftentimes happens when the athlete is running on jumping on a surface that’s not level. The athlete might hear a “pop” or “snap” sound, and usually afterwards experiences inflammation and pain in the ankle.
After spraining an ankle, the first treatment should be RICE: ®est, (I)ce, ©ompression, and (E)levation. These actions are crucial to help reduce the amount of swelling that occurs. After placing ice on the injured ankle, the athlete should then wrap an ACE bandage around the ankle. Also, an anti-inflammatory product can help to reduce the swelling and pain during the first 7-10 days following the injury.
After the pain starts to subside, the teen athlete can use additional treatments to help the ankle heal as quickly as possible. For example, “range of motion” exercises can make the ankle more flexible and reduce the amount of swelling. Another method is to stretch out the calf muscles gently, in order to improve the movement of the joint.
The best way to “treat” ankle sprains, is to prevent from happening in the first place! To help prevent ankle sprains, wear ankle supports whenever necessary. This will help to minimize the chance that your ankle will twist awkwardly. Also, athletes should do stretching and warm-ups prior to practices, and games or matches. One of the concerns of athletes who are recovering from an ankle sprain, is that they will sprain it again. Ankle braces help to prevent that from happening.