What Is My Ankle Sprain Recovery Time?

March 23, 2013 | Lee Gordon

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Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, Tony Parker and Andrew Bogut are among the high-profile athletes who have suffered ankle sprains this year. And although the severity of the injury differs for each, the result is the same: all have missed time on the court because of the injury.

Ankle sprains are the most common type of injury in sports, especially basketball. Each year, millions of dollars are spent in emergency rooms nationwide treating ankle injuries.

There are three grades of ankle sprains, and each one has its own set of drawbacks and its own recovery period. Learn your ankle sprain recovery time by finding your grade below.

Ankle Sprain Recovery Times

Grade 1 Ankle Sprain

This is the mildest degree of sprain, where there is minimal damage to the ligaments. The ankle is stable and should recover in seven to 10 days. The symptoms of a Grade 1 sprain tend to be limited to pain and swelling. Most athletes can walk without crutches but are unable to jog, jump or change direction.

"If you see someone that comes back in a week, they had a Grade 1 sprain," says New York-based orthopedic radiologist Barry Katz. "A sprain is the tearing of the ligaments, like a rubber band. It can scar, but they will never be the same." In this case, only mild tearing occurs, so the chances of the injury becoming a long-term issue are minimal.

Treated by rest, ice and elevation, athletes should be able to return from a Grade 1 sprain relatively quickly. Dr. Katz enumerates four signs that indicate you are ready to come back from an ankle injury:

  1. The swelling goes down
  2. You are able to put weight on the injured ankle
  3. You have full range of motion in the ankle
  4. You are able to participate in light physical activity—like running, jumping and cutting—and you can gradually engage in more intense activity

Grade 2 Ankle Sprain

Grade 2 ankle sprains involve a partial tear of the ligaments. They usually cause significant swelling and bruising from bleeding under the skin. San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker is sitting out a month because of a Grade 2 sprain.

Dr. Katz says injuries like Parker's can keep you out at least a month, if not longer. He says, "They're often associated with large amounts of swelling and even bleeding in the joint. You have instability. If someone is out at least three weeks, you can be pretty sure that they have a Grade 2 sprain."

Grade 3 Ankle Sprain

A Grade 3 sprain involves torn ligaments—often more than one. Injuries of this magnitude are quite painful, and walking can be difficult. Dr. Katz says, "The hallmark of a Grade 3 is the joint is unstable, and as a doctor, you can move the bones around in your hand. [A Grade 3 sprain] is a serious problem, and it causes a lot of swelling and bleeding in the joint. If there is too much instability, you may need surgery." This type of injury can cause you to be out for months, and it makes it more likely you will re-injure your ankle down the line.

Dr. Katz estimates that 30 to 60 percent of people he sees will re-sprain the same ankle at some point; and each time it happens, the likelihood of re-injury increases. As for rehab, Katz recommends physical therapy and ultrasounds to get the joint moving, reduce inflammation and increase mobility.

Decrease your risk of a sprained ankle by incorporating Dwyane Wade's ankle-strengthening routine into your workout.

Photo: uhzsmi.com

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