Ankle Sprains, Part I

Ankle sprains are common sports injuries for stop-and-start running sports, like sprint racing. It is important to remember that a sprain is still a tear in ligament fibers and needs to be taken care of properly. The proper treatment of a sprain can help you quickly recover and prevent future problems.

After an ankle sprain it is important to act quickly. You should immediately use the R.I.C.E treatment method (rest, ice, compression, elevation and exercise)– stop the activity and apply a compression wrap and ice in order to keep swelling to a minimum. Ice should be used for no more than 15 minutes at a time. Leaving ice on any longer can risk frostburn and cause tissue damage. Keep your leg elevated to decrease the blood flow (and swelling) to the foot. Compression is best performed compressing over the areas where the ligament fibers have torn. We want to push these fibers together so that they have a better chance of healing in a tight position. Start by cutting out a horseshoe-shaped pad from 1 x 4- to 3 x 8-inch-thick felt or use foam, etc. Put this pad around the outside of your ankle joint on both sides of your foot, with the open end facing up.

Then wrap an elastic bandage, such as an Ace bandage, in a basket-weave “figure-of-eight” pattern. Leave your heel exposed. Reinforce your wrap with 21 x 2-inch adhesive tape over the elastic bandage.

It’s also helpful to use a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication (such as ibuprofen-Advil, Motrin or naproxen sodium – Alleve) to help control inflammation. Studies have found that patients using NSAIDs after ankle sprains had less pain, decreased swelling, and a more rapid return to activity than those who didn’t take any medication.

The sooner you treat the sprain, the sooner you will recover. Take a hint from the pros: By getting immediate attention, they are back out there in a matter of days. If you do nothing, continue playing and then put some ice on your ankle later that night, you will end up with a sprain that can take weeks or months to heal properly. Most of the damage from a sprain comes from the swelling. Your main goal is to reduce swelling as much as possible, and to do that, every second counts.

If you play sports where an ankle sprain is likely (soccer, track, football, basketball, etc…) you should always have a first aid kit nearby. Such a kit should include: compression wraps, ice packs, splints, bandages, NSAIDs and other basic first aid supplies.