HEALTH & FITNESS
By Roy Gillespie B.Sc. P.T., M.C.P.A., C.A.F.C.I
Pinnacle Sports Physiotherapy, Kelowna, BC
One of the more common injuries in soccer is the sprained ankle. An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments (tissues which connect one bone to another bone) supporting the ankle become overstretched, causing ligament fibres and blood vessels to tear. In the majority of cases the outside (lateral) ligaments are damaged.
Sprains will vary in severity. First degree sprains are quite mild, and do not present any major instability. Players are back on the field often within a week or two. Second degree sprains often will present with bruising, moderate swelling, and some instability. These take a few weeks to heal. Third degree sprains are the most severe and take months to heal. Often residual instability/hypermobility will persist for months and sometimes will leave the athlete with chronic instability.
If a sprain occurs in practice or a game situation, the "R.I.C.E." concept is appropriate. In other words:
C ompress the ankle with tape or a wrap
E levate the ankle
Once the acute phase has subsided it is very important that the athlete do exercises to strengthen the joint and to regain proprioception (i.e. balance).
Getting an ankle brace or having the ankle taped for practices and games is often a good idea during the first few months following a sprain. In first degree sprains the taping/bracing will not be required after a couple of months. In the second and third degree injuries the brace/taping may be a long-term requirement. This is an individual decision which is best made with the help of medical professionals.
Many athletes will get mild ankle sprains and do not rehabilitate them properly. Consequently, the ankle is vulnerable to recurrent sprains. If you have "rolled your ankle" in the past and have not had treatment do a couple of tests to see how you have recovered:
- Stand on the previously sprained ankle, close your eyes, and see how your balance is doing. Then, compare this to the uninjured ankle.
- Try skipping using one leg at a time. Compare the speed, strength, and stamina of the sprained ankle to the uninjured one.
- Try hopping from one spot on the floor to another spot. Catch your balance between hops (i.e. hop and get balance before hopping again, hop again and use different directions when you hop). Again, compare sides.