Did you know that your ankle is the most weight bearing joint in your body? When you couple its unstable nature with the vigorous activity it’s required to perform, it’s no surprise that ankle sprains account for nearly 20% of all sporting injuries!

How does it happen?

Ankle sprains occur by rolling your ankle when performing activities such as running, jumping, landing or changing direction. This can happen in any direction, but most commonly inwards resulting in injury to the ligaments on the outside of your foot.

At the time of the injury you may hear an audible snap, cracking or tearing sound. Look out, because pain and swelling often follows!

How bad is it?

Ankle sprains are graded by severity. These include:

  • Grade 1 : small tear or stretching of ligaments, resulting in some pain, can often continue to play but is more painful once you cool down.
  • Grade 2 : significant partial tear and stretching of the ligaments, resulting in difficulty weight bearing and the need for crutches and some degree of joint instability
  • Grade 3 : ligaments are torn completely, resulting in major loss of function and significant joint instability.

The more the severe the sprain, the more swelling and bruising there is likely to be. In most cases people will have difficulty weight bearing, which can result in a limp or the need for crutches.

What should I do?

The first 72hrs after an ankle sprain is all about minimising the amount of blood flow and inflammation occurring within your ankle. This can be done by following the R.I.C.E principles (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).

In this phase it is also important to be assessed by a Doctor of Physio to determine the severity of your injury, clear the potential of a fracture and put together a treatment plan.

Pain is a major burden of an ankle sprain. With the help of your physio you can be fitted with crutches, ankle taping or bracing to reduce the stress on your ankle. A Moon Boot or Cam Walker may be used for the first few weeks if the sprain is severe enough.

How do I Strengthen my Ankle?

After  the initial phase,  a graduated flexibility, balance and strengthening program prescribed by a physiotherapist is essential to recondition the ankle and reduce the chance of recurrent injury. This is important because up to 70% of people re-sprain their injured ankle. People wanting to return to running or competitive sports requiring agility and jumping and landing skills will need to do a comprehensive rehabilitation program to recondition and strengthen their ankle.  This can include sport specific dynamic balance exercises and progressive acceleration and deceleration running drills.

Brace or Tape??

Once returning to sports or activity, use of preventative ankle braces or taping is recommended to reduce the likelihood of injury recurrence. A report suggests that bracing is more effective than taping, although both are effective in prevention of recurrent injuries.   Taping or Bracing should not be used as an alternative to strengthening as this is the essential element to prevention of re-injury.


Jewel Oh
Physiotherapist at Corio Bay Sports Treatment Clinic Colac