As physiotherapists, we frequently see athletes who have ongoing problems following ankle sprains, sometimes twelve months or more after the initial sprain.

The rehabilitation of an ankle sprain is very important. It is easy to ‘get by’ with an ‘almost right’ ankle injury and thus patients tend to not finish their rehab or not even feel the need to have treatment for a mild to moderate sprain. These untreated injuries always catch up to their owners and cause problems down the track.

What occurs when an ankle is sprained?

The ankle complex is made up of three ligaments. The most commonly sprained ligament is the anterior talofibular ligament, but frequently other ligaments are also affected.

The joint swells, and an inflammatory reaction occurs which is the body’s way of healing the injury. The small bones and joints of the foot may be affected due to swelling of the ankle, and an abnormal walking pattern will result.

Without appropriate rehabilitation, these joints and small bones in the foot may become chronically stiff and lead to long term problems when the foot and ankle complex is put under pressure. The ligaments do not heal properly, and range of movement, balance and full function of the ankle are not restored. Without adequate management, a simple ankle sprain may become a recurrent problem, hindering both sporting and everyday activities.