The ankle is a complex joint, which bears the weight of the whole body; consequently, pressure on the ankle joint is considerable and ankle injuries are common.
Types of injury
The most common types of ankle injury are sprains; fractures may also be common in some contact sports.
A sprain occurs when the ligaments surrounding a joint are stretched beyond their limits; this causes them to become damaged. Commonly, sprains are caused by going over on an ankle or changing direction too quickly. Sprains are common in sports such as football, running and hockey.
Symptoms of a sprain
The most common symptoms of a sprained ankle are pain and swelling. Often, a person who has sprained their ankle will have trouble bearing weight and may experience heightened pain when pressure is put on the affected ankle.
Treating a sprain
Most sprains heal quickly with rest, ice and medication to control pain and inflammation. Severe sprains may take a while to heal and will almost always benefit from physiotherapy; this will speed up recovery and strengthen the affected ankle joint.
Broken ankles are nearly always caused by a sudden change of direction, which causes the ankle to twist.
Symptoms of a fracture
The most common symptoms are pain and swelling; the affected area will also feel tender. If the fracture is more complex, the fracture may be visible as the bone may have broken the skin.
Treating an ankle fracture
The nature of the fracture will be determined by an x-ray. Initially ice will be applied to the area to reduce swelling; pain relief and anti-inflammatory medication will also be given. Treatment will be based on the extent of the injury and will usually involve immobilising the affected ankle using a splint and then a cast; minor fractures may not require this treatment and may heal quickly on their own. Crutches will generally be used to avoid the ankle bearing any weight. Surgery may be required in some cases; this will be needed if the alignment of the joint has been altered by the injury.
Recovering from an ankle fracture
Recovery may take a while if the fracture is complex; this will involve a long period of rest and physiotherapy; this will help to gradually build up strength in the ankle and increase flexibility and movement in the joint. Minor fractures may not require physiotherapy but exercise should be resumed gradually and only when the ankle has healed fully.
Preventing ankle injuries
The possibility of suffering an ankle injury can be significantly reduced by avoiding uneven surfaces and wearing suitable and supportive footwear. Maintaining a healthy and stable weight will also help to reduce pressure on the ankle joint. Regular exercise will keep the joints loose and therefore make them less prone to injury.