Injuries to joints happen frequently among physically active individuals. In particular, those who are into running are more likely to have some form of ankle injury, writes Zara Elise.

Some of the most common are lateral ligament injuries. An article published in Elsevier stated that 77% of ankle sprains sustained in football involved the lateral ligaments. These injuries can be a recurring condition if the initial ankle sprain is poorly rehabilitated.

Ligaments are the strong fibrous tissues that connect bones to other bones. Those in the ankle help stablilise the joint and keep the bones in their proper position. When one sprains his or her ankle, the most commonly damaged is the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL).

ATFL sprains need adequate care or else will result in long-term complications, especially if there is a tear involved. The acute symptoms of the sprain, such as pain and swelling, go away with time, hence people don’t pursue further treatment. But this may be when chronic symptoms develop, like ankle joint instability and recurring ankle pain.

Tears in the ATFL are commonly missed, since the symptoms may point to a simple ankle sprain. For a reliable diagnosis, an ultrasound is a cost-effective method. Once the tear is determined, ATFL repair is generally an easy procedure, followed by a rehabilitation programme.

In the acute phase, management of the sprain can be done through protection, rest, ice, compression, elevation, and early rehabilitation (P.R.I.C.E.E.R.). The subsequent weeks can be dedicated to progressive strengthening exercises, range of motion exercises and proprioceptive and balance exercises, all of which should be facilitated by a professional.

The rehabilitation process may take a few months, as noted in cases of famous sports athletes. Golfer Rory McIlroy ruptured his ankle ligaments in 2015, resulting in him missing the Open. Fortunately, he recovered quickly, returning to the sport the following year and earning two titles. McIlroy’s rehabilitation involved six weeks of physiotherapy and six weeks of wearing a cast. Plenty of therapy can ease the swelling in a week, but it may still take more time for an athlete to practice with the injury.

Further reading:

For additional information on recovery methods for joint injuries, refer to our blog on how peripheral vision can reduce the risk of shoulder injury.

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