Sprained ankles may be common, but they can lead to long-term problems. A European study found that up to 75% of the sprains incurred by professional soccer players occurred in ankles with previous sprains or instability. Another study reported that up to 40% of people who had previously sustained an acute ankle sprain were likely to experience chronic ankle instability. The most common ankle sprain is a lateral ankle sprain, where the foot rolls inward, stretching the ligaments on the lateral, or outside, part of the ankle. The ligaments most commonly involved are the anterior talofibular ligament, which keeps the ankle bones from slipping forward, and the calcaneofibular ligament, which keeps the ankle from rolling inward.
A grade I sprain causes the ligament to stretch, a grade II sprain results in a partial tearing of the ligament, while in a grade III sprain, the ligament suffers a complete tear, or rupture. Pain and swelling accompany all three types of sprain; in a grade III sprain, the ankle is quite painful, walking can be difficult and patients may complain of instability or a “giving way” sensation to the ankle joint. As ligaments heal, the resulting scar tissue causes the ankle bones connected by the ligaments to be held together less tightly than before the injury. This laxity makes it easier to resprain the ankle.
If your ankle ligaments do not heal adequately following a sprain, your physician may suggest placing a lateral wedge in your footwear under the outer half of the heel to stabilize the ankle and keep it from rolling inward and being sprained again. Because the ankle joints are complex and subject to many stresses, the use of a heel wedge alone is unlikely to return the ankle to full function. Thus, your doctor will most likely recommend that you work with a physical therapist for two to four weeks. Whether your goal is to walk the dog or return to sports, we can devise a complete program of rehabilitation exercises to help prevent you from injuring your ankle again. These exercises would allow you to achieve full range of motion of the ankle, strengthen the muscles along the outside of the leg and restore the proprioceptors, special nerve cells that send information about position and movement of the body, in this case, the ankle. We can design sports-specific exercises to help you safely return to your preinjury activities