Keeping you Body Wise: Ankle injuries are on the rise

by admin December 1, 2010

Sports-related ankle injuries are on the rise, and athletes who return to their sport too early are risking long-term consequences, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.


Ankle injuries can affect the bone, joint, ligament or tendon, and proper diagnosis is the first step to a full recovery. Sprains, the most common ankle injury, are caused by an overstretching or tearing of small ligaments. However, subtle fractures exhibit similar symptoms to sprains and can sometimes be missed on initial examination.


“A sprain and subtle break have about the same level of pain,” said Dr. Jason Shinn, Board Certified Orthopaedic Surgeon. “Location of the pain along with X-rays is the best way to diagnose the injury properly.”


If these injuries are misdiagnosed and one prematurely returns to athletics, there can be negative, long-term effects. Arthritis is a complication that can occur later with improperly treated fractures. And sprains that are not adequately rested or rehabilitated are susceptible to re-injury.


The key to a successful recovery is not returning too quickly to full use of the injured foot or ankle. A grade 1 or 2 sprain, which is a partial tear of the ligament, takes about two to three weeks to heal. A grade 3 sprain, a complete tear, takes about four to six weeks to heal. An ankle fracture typically takes two to three months to heal completely, Dr. Shinn said.


Ankle injuries, including fractures, very rarely need surgery, but physical therapy is recommended if the ankle is not functioning normally. Fractures can often be managed with immobilization of the foot or ankle through use of a boot or cast. It is sometimes suggested to not bear any weight on the injury, Dr. Shinn said.


“An ankle sprain or subtle fracture is not usually a detrimental injury to an athlete, but proper diagnosis and treatment is necessary to prevent future injuries.”

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