Simple Ways to Treat or Prevent an Ankle Sprain

July 26, 2013 | Kelvin King Jr.

Must See Sports Injuries Videos

A sprained ankle is one of the most common joint injuries, prompting many athletes to consider it "just a sprain" and not treat it with the respect it deserves. The consequences of this neglect are persistent weakness, instability in the joint and the likelihood of repeated sprains. Ankle sprains are so often mistreated (or not treated at all), that experts say they have the highest recurrence rate of any joint injury, and they can result in chronic symptoms.

The National Athletic Trainers' Association met with experts responsible for the ankle health of college athletes, reviewing the evidence for various methods assumed to help prevent recurrent ankle sprains. Their conclusion? Ankle sprains need more rehabilitation and take longer to heal than most athletes allow. Think now, how many athletes are playing with injured ankles?

Dr. Tricia Hubbard, of the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, expressed concern that 30 to 40 percent of athletes with simple ankle sprains develop chronic long-term injuries. Her research showed that with any ankle sprain, the ankle should be immediately immobilized to protect the joint and allow the reinjured ligaments to heal—and remain immobilized for at least week for a simple ankle sprain, 10 to 14 days for a moderate sprain, and four to six weeks for a severe sprain.

A sprain results when ligaments are stretched beyond their normal range. In a severe sprain, the elastic fibers tear partly or completely. In sports, common causes include coming down wrong after a jump shot or rebound; stepping on another player's foot; and making quick directional changes, as in tennis, basketball, football, and soccer.

Classification of Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains are categorized in three grades, depending on their severity.

  • Grade I: Some stretching and possibly slight tearing. Little or no instability of the joint. Mild pain, swelling, and stiffness.
  • Grade II: Some tearing of the ligaments and moderate instability of the joint. Moderate to severe pain, swelling and joint stiffness.
  • Grade III: Total rupture of ligament(s) and severe instability of the joint. Severe pain and swelling, extreme joint stiffness.

Grade III sprains require immobilization for several weeks. Surgical repair or reconstruction may be necessary.

As with other such injuries, the recommended first aid for an ankle sprain, which should start as soon as possible after the injury, goes by the acronym RICE—Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

An athletic trainer will prescribe RICE, a period of immobilization of the ankle and rehabilitation exercises. He or she will also decide whether the athlete should see a doctor or physical therapist.

Exercise Progression to Manage, Prevent and Treat Ankle Sprains

Athletes and their trainers must take the proper steps to manage, prevent and treat ankle injuries. Below are various prehab and/or rehab exercises for an ankle sprain, arranged in a progression. They can be done on your own before and after activity.

Seated Ankle Banded Stretches

Standard Toe and Heel Walks

On toes forward, pigeon toe, and toes pointed out; then heel walks in same patterns.

Alphabets - Upper Case and Lower Case

For serious ankle injuries, perform the ankle alphabet. It promotes range of motion and flexibility and builds strength before the athlete resumes activity.

Ankle Octagon Quick Foot Taps - Various Directions

The following progressions are done after a session or game to ensure ankle mobility, keeping the ankle loose and functional until the athlete can get home and rest it.

Standing Ankle Banded Stretches

Tim Grover's Quick Seated Ankle-Banded Stretches

Learn more about treating and preventing ankle sprains:

Kelvin King Jr.
- Kelvin King, Jr. is the owner of Creative Athletic Movements, a
 sports performance training business. He also serves as a sports performance specialist for St....
Kelvin King Jr.
- Kelvin King, Jr. is the owner of Creative Athletic Movements, a
 sports performance training business. He also serves as a sports performance specialist for St....
Must See
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 9,311,796
Brandon Jennings: "Always Improve"
Views: 4,083,729
Abby Wambach Will Do Whatever It Takes
Views: 4,426,763

Featured Videos

A Day in the Life of NBA D-League Star Seth Curry Views: 68,298
Kevin Love's Cone Hop Basketball Shooting Drill Views: 6,362
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 2: Laying the Groundwork Views: 127,960
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Perfect Dwyane Wade's Signature Euro Step
Views: 1,308,758
What Ryan Hall Eats for Breakfast
Views: 795,225
STACK Fitness Weekly: How To Do a Muscle-Up
Views: 778,651
Greg Nixon's Hill Training Program
Views: 705,761
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,560,472

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

8 of the Most Ridiculous Off-Field Athlete Injuries of All Time

Outsmart Injury With These 4 Predictive Tests

7 Ways to Fix Back Pain

STUDY: Imaginary Exercise Helps You Recover Faster From Injury

How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab

Eliminate Elbow Pain with These 3 Methods

Basketball Players: Prevent Ankle Sprains With These 3 Exercises

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

Avoid Low-Back Pain With These 7 In-Season Exercises

How to Prevent Injuries With 3 Yoga Poses

Why Strengthening This Muscle May Fix Knee Pain

Megan Rapinoe

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

What You Need to Know About Tiger Woods' Back Injury

3 Steps to Prevent Soccer ACL Injuries

5 Exercises to Prevent ACL Tears

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Muscle Injuries

The 8 Most Dangerous Exercises for Your Shoulders

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

Coaches: Prevent Injuries With the Recovery Management Tool

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet

Sports Hernias: What You Need to Know

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury

5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

How to Train With Running Blisters

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries

Tips for Working Out With a Hand or Arm Injury

Bulletproof Your Body with 5 Easy Injury Prevention Exercises

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

3 Ways to Prevent the Most Common Hockey Injury

Pectoral Tendon Ruptures and Injury Prevention

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

4 Strategies to Prevent Tommy John Surgery

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery