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Avoid Ankle Sprains in Fall Sports

As summer temperatures drop, fall sports injuries are on the rise. Over 25,000 people sprain their ankle every day, and the chances are heightened for those who play sports. Avoid ankle sprains this fall by following the advice of foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons.

What is an ankle sprain?

An ankle sprain refers to stretched or torn ankle ligaments. When there is a sudden twist or roll of the ankle, the ligaments on either side can tear or stretch beyond their limits, leaving your ankle swollen with limited movement.

Athletes who play sports such as basketball or volleyball tend to sprain their ankles more often because the player focuses on the ball instead of their surroundings and their feet, explains J. Chris Coetzee, MD, foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon with Twin Cities Orthopedics, Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Prevention

To prevent ankle sprains, pay attention to your body and slow down when you start to feel pain. Keep your ankles in shape by regularly working on your balance, flexibility, and strength. Make sure to wear shoes that will support your feet and ankles while you're on the court or field.

Dr. Coetzee said, "Athletes should either tape their ankles or use an ankle brace to limit sprains, and footwear should be tailored to the specific athlete's foot shape. The most common mistake is to have an insert in the shoe that lifts the arch too high, which increases the chances of spraining the ankle."

Athletes may think a high-top shoe would stabilize the ankle and lead to fewer ankle sprains, but studies have not found that to be the case, says Troy S. Watson, MD, of Desert Orthopaedic Center, Las Vegas. "In one study of basketball players, there was no significant difference between athletes who wore high-top shoes and athletes who wore low-top basketball shoes. I recommend wearing the shoe of your choice if it provides adequate support."

Treatment

If you do injure your ankle, it's important to get treatment in a timely manner. First, visit a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon to evaluate your ankle and confirm there are no fractures or serious injuries that may require surgery. For less serious sprains, follow the R.I.C.E. guidelines by resting, icing, compressing, and elevating the ankle.

"Depending on the severity of the sprain, the use of a walking boot or ankle brace may be necessary. Crutches should be considered if you are unable to bear weight on the ankle," Dr. Watson recommended. "Once the swelling diminishes in about a week or two, you may begin formal physical therapy. Work with a physical therapist 2-3 times a week and institute a home physical therapy program under their guidance."

Learn more about caring for a sprained ankle, including stretching and strengthening exercises, from FootCareMD.org.

About Foot and Ankle Orthopaedic Surgeons

Foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons are medical doctors (MD and DO) who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries of the foot and ankle. Their education and training consist of four years of medical school, five years of postgraduate residency, and a fellowship year of specialized surgical training. These specialists care for patients of all ages, performing reconstructive surgery for deformities and arthritis, treating sports injuries, and managing foot and ankle trauma.

Content provided by the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society.