Ankle injuries are one of the most common joint injuries, particularly among both professional and amateur athletes. Despite the frequencies of these traumas, they are often either ignored or viewed as less serious than they actually are.
A simple slip, trip, or fall could result in a mild to severe ankle injury depending on the circumstances. In addition, what is commonly referred to as a “rolled ankle” occurs when there is a mechanism of an inversion injury to the ankle. The sudden, forced inversion of the ankle can result in trauma to one or more ligaments. This type of injury is also referred to as an ankle sprain.
When determining the severity of an ankle injury, the area should first be examined for gross deformity, tenderness, swelling, range of motion, strength, and associated damage to the foot or knee. Healthcare professionals should adhere to a series of steps before confirming the need for additional imagery. These steps include:
1. Whether or not there is tenderness at the distal 6 cm of the posterior edge of the fibula or tibia.
2. Tenderness at the tip of either malleolus.
3. Tenderness at the base of the fifth metatarsal or navicular.
4. Inability to take four steps immediately after injury.
If you experience an ankle injury, it’s important to avoid returning back to regular activities too soon. Putting additional strain on your ankle before it is fully healed increases your risk for re-injury.
Whether you choose to seek assistance from a healthcare professional or treat your ankle yourself, there are several factors to consider as part of the treatment plan and discharge process. These factors include the following:
1. Are you in pain, and to what extent?
2. Is there any swelling, and how much does it fluctuate?
3. What physical symptoms are you experiencing or can see?
4. Do you mentally feel comfortable and prepared to use your ankle?
5. Can you complete the necessary skills and movements in order to participate in regular physical activities?
What are the most common reasons for injuries among runners?
While some ankle injuries may resolve on their own, the more severe conditions can have long-lasting effects if left untreated. In a situation where there is a complete tear of the ligaments—or other features, such as bone—the ankle may become unstable after the initial shock passes.
1. Overuse injuries occur when a runner over-exerts themselves, placing additional or unnecessary strain on their joints, specifically the ankles. This type of physical strain causes your ankles to weaken, increasing the risk of initial, as well as recurring, injuries.
2. Traumatic injuries refer to situations when your ankle experiences a sudden, often severe injury that requires immediate medical attention. This can include severe sprains, fractures, breaks, and tears to the ligaments or tendons.
Generally, ankle injuries that are more serious than a single fracture may require surgery in order to be corrected. In these scenarios, it is recommended to attend physiotherapy treatments in order to regain full function.
How can running foot or ankle injuries be avoided?
1. Use the proper running techniques: Like any other kind of physical activity, running takes time and practice in order to master. Using the proper running techniques helps minimize the chances of getting injured in the first place.
2. Wear the correct footwear: Wherever you go running, whether it’s for recreational or competitive purposes, ensure you wear the right shoes. Matching your footwear to the specific terrain and your style of running (for example, trail vs. street) will help minimize injury. Proper footwear designed for running also provides your ankles with the necessary support they need to withstand the impact of running.
3. Don’t forget to stretch: You should always stretch before and after participating in any physical activity. Doing this allows your muscles to warm up, ensuring they are loose and relaxed when you start running. This also gives you an opportunity to loosen your joints and prepare them for the upcoming activity.
4. Strength training: Practicing strength training in addition to running allows you to strengthen the muscles needed for the sport, as well as those surrounding your joints. This provides them with the additional support required to withstand the demands of running.
5. Regular physiotherapy treatments: A physiotherapist can help you develop a specialized treatment that is catered towards your specific injury and physical needs. These treatments also provide additional monitoring during the recovery process, allowing you to avoid further injury down the line.
What is the best treatment for ankle injuries?
The main objectives of ankle injury treatment are to reduce swelling and discomfort, complete any required ligament repair, as well as restore overall ankle function. In the event that your injury is less severe and may be able to heal on its own, there are some steps you can take to minimize symptoms at home. Following the rest, ice compression, and elevation process will give your ankle the opportunity to heal naturally.
However, if a more severe injury has occurred, a healthcare professional may recommend further invasive procedures, medication, and/or physiotherapy to help manage the symptoms. Determining the best treatment for your ankle injury depends on a few different factors, such as mobility, severity, cause, and pain level.
The Most Effective Ways to Rehabilitate an Injured Ankle
1. Range-of-motion exercises: Designed to help preserve flexibility and mobility of joints, these movements reduce stiffness and will prevent—or at least slow down—the development of existing or future symptoms.
2. Stretching exercises: Deliberately stretching the muscles and tendons around your ankle helps build flexibility, restore mobility, and improve muscle tone. These exercises typically result in increased muscle control, flexibility, and range of motion.
3. Strengthening exercises: Practicing strength-training exercises allows you to target the strength, size, power, and endurance of your ankle. This can both help support it before, during, and after an injury.
The Importance of Preventing Ankle Injuries
Many sports, notably running, tennis, and soccer, frequently result in foot and ankle problems. However, by exercising caution—and taking preventative measures early on—sports enthusiasts can lessen their risk of potential harm.
Erin Gregory is a blogger in Toronto. She is currently working as a Community Manager for several small businesses. She has graduated with honors from the University of British Columbia with a dual degree in Business Administration and Creative Writing. When not working, she eagerly shares her wealth of knowledge about all things health and business solutions. Erin’s unique insight and expertise makes for powerful content.