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Avoiding Ankle Sprains

The ankle has strong bands of connective tissue which are called ligaments, which reinforce the joint and support the bones of the ankle. These ligaments prevent excessive movement of the joint.

A sudden movement or twist, often when the foot rolls in, can overstretch the supporting ligaments, causing ligament tears and bleeding around the joint. This is known as an ankle sprain. This is a common injury, particularly in activities commonly played right here in North East Victoria. These activities include hiking / bushwalking, netball, football, soccer and basketball.


Symptoms of ankle sprains

  • Swelling – the ankle can swell within minutes or over the following hours.
  • Bruising – over the area of the injury
  • Pain – when trying to move the ankle joint and when walking, especially when the knee steps over the foot.

In more severe injuries there may be associated bone injury and it is sometimes necessary to get an X-ray of the ankle to determine whether there is a fracture. Your physiotherapist can advise you on whether or not you require an X-ray, and if required, can provide you with the referral.

Acute management of ankle sprains

Stop the activity and rest the injured joint. Use icepacks for 15-20 minutes every 1-2 hours. When not icing the ankle, bandage it firmly, extending the compression up the calf and down the foot. Elevate the ankle above heart height by lying down and placing the foot up.

Avoid exercise, heat, alcohol and massage in the first 48 hours after the injury, as these can all exacerbate the swelling.

Recurring ankle sprains

Some people suffer from recurring ankle sprains. This can be caused by a number of factors working in combination, including;

  • Ligament scarring – excessive instability as a result of previous ankle sprains
  • Insufficient rehabilitation – leading to weak muscles round the joint
  • Proprioceptive (balance) deficit – decreased capacity to judge where your foot is in relation to your leg.

Rehabilitation and Support

Ankle sprains need thorough investigation and rehabilitation. Physiotherapists are ideally placed to assess and treat these common injuries.

Physiotherapy treatment may include;

  • Exercises to strengthen all muscles surrounding and related to ankle movement and function
  • Advice on taping and ankle braces for use during activity, if required
  • The use of a wobble board, mini trampoline and other exercises to encourage balance and improve the proprioceptive deficit.
  • Exercise programs to improve mobility of the joint.


Early treatment and completion of a full rehabilitation program will get you back into your chosen activity as quickly as possible, and also reduce your risk of future recurrences.


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