An ankle sprain is an overstretching or a (partial) tearing of the ankle ligaments. A person almost always sprains with the ankle towards the outside so that damage to the outer ankle ligaments may occur. After an ankle sprain a swelling often occurs on the outside of the ankle and a contusion may be noticed after some time. If an ankle is sprained more seriously, moving and loading the ankle joint may be painful or even impossible.
> Causes of this ankle injury
An ankle sprain may be caused by: 'stumbling' for example on a soft surface (in the wood!) or on the edge of the inner track; a wrong push-off or landing for example in the long jump or the hurdles. A sportsperson who has previously suffered this injury runs an increased risk of getting it again.
> How does one prevent an ankle injury?
In order to prevent an ankle injury, it is advisable to comply with the following 'prevention tips'. Warming-up. Always begin with a good warming up. Do a leisurely warming-up walk for at least 5 to 10 minutes and then perform a specific warming-up for the event which you are going to do. Good training structure. Make sure that you are in good shape and have a good technique for pushing off and landing.
Stay focused when practising your sport. Do not allow yourself to get distracted by your fellow-athletes and watch where you put down your feet, especially when walking on a soft or uneven surface. Make sure yourself that the circumstances are safe when you practise your sport. Example: fill up the 'landing hole' again after a long jump and check whether there are any shots just behind the beam in the shot-putting sector onto which you might step.
Wear robust, well-fitting sports shoes. Balance training / muscle fortifying exercises. If you have weak ankles or have suffered ankle injuries before, it is advisable to do extra muscle-fortifying exercises for the muscles surrounding the ankle joint. After that, perform 'balance exercises' while standing on one leg. Tape. During practice and competitions it may be useful to support the ankle using a bandage, tape or an ankle brace. Have yourself advised by an expert about the purchase of such an ankle brace or the application of a bandage or tape.
Always end your practice with a cooling-down, so that the waste substances of the exercise can be removed properly.
> What can you do about an ankle injury?
Once an ankle has been sprained, the important thing is to prevent 'worse' by: resting; do not walk or lean on the injured ankle; avoid moving the injured ankle and keep the leg up as much as possible. In this way a contusion, if any, remains as small as possible. Try to load the injured ankle as little as possible in the first 2 or 3 days after the spraining of the ankle occurred. If necessary, use elbow crutches in consultation with the attending professional.
> Bandaging and cooling
The occurrence of swelling must be avoided as much as possible. This can be achieved by applying a pressure bandage immediately after the accident. Cooling is also recommended, although this has recently been the subject matter of discussions. At any rate, cooling works well as a pain killer. In the Injuries Corner you will find several products with which you can cool the injury. You should, therefore, apply a pressure bandage immediately after the spraining of the ankle using an elastic bandage, and cool the ankle. The cooling must be maintained for at least 15 minutes. Continue to cool several times a day, alternating a period of 15 minutes of cooling with periods without cooling.
Next you may proceed with a tape or self-adhesive bandage. If you sprain your ankle repeatedly, it is advisable to use an ankle support or brace. In addition, you can fortify your ankle by doing specific exercises.
Prof. Dr. F.J.G. Backx, member of the medical committee of the KNKV (Royal Netherlands Korfball Federation), sports physician