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A sprain, affecting the outside of the ankle, is a very common sports injury. It usually happens when the foot turns in excessively. This can happen with landing from a jump, running on uneven ground or in a collision with another player where the foot gets trapped. When a patient presents to our Dublin 4 clinic with an ankle sprain one question we always ask is; have you sprained it before? Very commonly the answer is yes. This is backed up by research in the area which shows that one of the biggest risk factors for spraining your ankle is having had a previous sprain on the same side. So what happens to the ankle during and after the sprain and what can be done to reduce the risk of spraining it again?
When you sprain your ankle the ligaments on the outside of it are torn. The muscles around the it can weaken, your ankle can stiffen up. One thing that can really be affected is called proprioception. This is the body’s ability to sense movement in a joint and the position of the joint in space. It allows us to know where different parts of the body are without looking. So what? Well think about the movement of landing from a jump when playing rugby, GAA or taking part in gymnastics. If you’re looking down at your foot you may miss the ball or the tackler coming down the pitch and if your proprioception is bad your muscles won’t react properly to the type of ground you’ve landed on. So if the ground is a little uneven, you could end up rolling the ankle again! Poor proprioception is often found in people who have sprained their ankle before.
So the most important thing with an ankle sprain is to correctly rehabilitate your first ankle sprain. This would involve balance exercises such as standing on one leg with your eyes closed and strengthening exercises such as standing on one leg and going up onto your toes and down again. It is important that the ankle is back to full strength before going back to playing sport. If you have suffered from many sprains the ankle will still respond to exercises to build up the strength around the area to protect the it. With improved proprioception and strength there should be a reduced risk of rolling the ankle again. If this risk cannot be reduced significantly your physiotherapist may advise you on strapping or a brace to help support the ankle.
Correct rehabilitation is therefore really important in the recovery of ankle sprains and the prevention of future injuries. Please contact us for further information or to book an appointment.