As a Physiotherapist, I’ve lost count of the amount if times patients have claimed they have a “bad ankle”, that they have sustained an ankle sprain have on the same side numerous times before, or that they always sprain that ankle…. like it’s a normal thing.
Don’t Ignore that Sprain
An ankle sprain is one of the most common injuries, and not just on the sporting field, that’s for sure. They are so common that they almost get written off as a “normal” occurrence and they are brushed off as “oh, it’s just a sprain”. Almost half of those that sprain their ankle are back to their normal activity or sport within a week, even though we know ligament healing time is up to 12 weeks in a lot of cases
But do you know what? A sprain, in most cases, is a partial tear to the lateral ankle ligaments and just brushing them off and resting them for a short time can cause real long-term issues.
After spraining their ankle, over 50% of people still don’t have full recovery after a year and 25% of people re-sprain their ankle within a year(1). That isn’t just something to brush off and rest, it’s a serious injury.
Factors contributing to Ankle Sprain
To help figure out how to reduce the risk of long-term pain and instability, there is a lot of research looking into the factors that make you more at risk of pain and injury.
What’s one of the main risk factors? Past ankle injury. Now some of you may think that’s because the ankle ligaments were “damaged” and yes, in a small percentage of people there are high-grade tears that don’t heal well but in the majority of people, you ligaments do heal, just like the rest of our body – we have a great capacity for healing.
High Risk Factor – Prior Injury
So, what makes you almost 4 times more likely to sprain your ankle after you have done it once? One of the main causes is not your ligaments, it’s the secondary weakness and loss of control that occurred after the injury(2). The great thing is that you can improve these things, but only if you challenge them and force change.
Rather than blaming an injured ligament, you can do something about it. Doing exercise rehab after a sprain can massively reduce your risk of re-injury and actually will also reduce your risk of spraining your ankle even if you haven’t had a sprain before because it simply creates a stronger ankle with improved capacity.
A large systematic review, which included 3500 people found that the risk of ankle injury was decreased by 46% when balance and strength training was done! If you want to go the whole hog though, there is solid research that shows that using a good lace-up ankle brace, particularly in the 12 weeks when your ligament is healing, reduces the risk of a sprain by 64% (3).
Live Pain Free – Manage Risk and Injury Pain
So remember, ankle sprains often don’t need to be a long term thing, particularly if you rehab them well and protect the ligaments while healing you can hugely decrease your risk of injury and ensure your ankle heals stronger, faster, with less pain and long term instability.
Do your ankle rehab, and follow through with it to help your ankle heal better, faster, and stronger after a sprain and get a good brace (if needed) for your ankle to give yourself the best shot at recovery.
If you haven’t injured your ankle but want to reduce the risk of injury, check out another past post HERE