Ankle Injuries .. Treatment & Rehab .. a Player's Guide


Keep It Moving

The bad old days of tightly binding up sprained joints and staying off them are over. Now its ....get them moving and keep them moving. Remember your ankle is there to bend,twist,turn .... you don't want end up with a stiff hinge. No matter how bad your sprain is, you will recover quicker and achieve better long term results if you get your injured ankle moving right from day 1. Even in the first few hours when you are icing down your injury and resting it up on a cushion, spend a few moments here & there , gently rotating your foot.


When Do I start Walking

Even if you are forced to be on crutches to start, after your initial rest period of 48 hours, start walking... slowly and carefully. If it really hurts... partial weight bear only. The sooner you get going, the sooner you will be back on the track.


How Do I Know If Im Over-Doing It

Let pain be your guide. A "grumble" or a "niggle" is OK.... Moderate pain means ....take it easier. If your present activity (eg jogging) causes no pain up until the next morning ... then you can move up to more demanding activity.


Your Ankle Is Your Balance

Your ankle is an intelligent organ. It reads all those thousand of changes going on when you run over an uneven surface and works in with a dozen muscles to keep you in balance and performing all those great movements which make you an elite performer. Your ankle has received a "knock-out blow"... you will need to retrain it to "listen in" again. And you might need to do some lower leg strength training... especially if the sprain is bad.


Balance Work

While you are sitting at home nursing your injury... roll a tennis ball or an empty stubby around under your bare foot. Practise balancing on one leg ... on a stable surface first... later make it more difficult... eg on a wobble-board or a mini-trampoline. Lastly try doing it and toss a ball around at the same time.


When I Can Start Jogging

1. You must be able to stand on the injured leg with eyes shut... for 30 secs without overbalancing. 2. Your injured ligament must be minimally tender when squeezed or fully stretched . 3. Hopping on one leg should be painless.


Jogging Is OK... Now What

Start running... in a straight line first session. If that's OK and causes no pain... progress to zig-zags and "figure of 8's" ... big at first then tighter. Lastly join in with a regular team training session


Do I Strap Up For Games

Of course. Learn how it’s done from your trainer. Get a feel for your preferred strapping tensions.


When Things Don't Go Right

Usually you expect to get back to competition inside 4 weeks. Some ankle injuries can take 6 months to settle. Worrying signs can be... ongoing pain, joint instability, reduced range of movement , recurring swelling. See a physio or sports medico.  If you can't weight-bear one week after your injury, you may benefit from immobilisation .. so see your doc.


Should I See a Physio

You need to weigh up several factors... how severity of the initial injury, quality of club personel, your finances, past experience, failure to progress satisfactorily.


Do I Need X-rays or Scans

Initially, very few ankle sprains demand imaging. However, if things don't improve as expected, you might benefit from further assessment. 



Some further issues...

1. The Recurring Ankle Injury ... Some players have multiple injuries over the years.. they rarely need hospital transfer, Xrays etc. The player usually has a good idea what to expect from the injury and you just need to swing into a standard ankle rehab program.

2. The Chronic Ankle ... Some players have ankles that just hurt & swell after every game, rather than having major injuries, they often get a tweak. They need strapping. It is a good idea to get a sport's podiatrist to look at them.

3. The Problem Ankle ... Some players have ankles that dont get better ... get these players to a sports physician for scans and expert opinion. There are a number of lesser known injuries which need expert attention.