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How to Care for Common Ankle Injuries

About 28,000 ankle sprains occur daily in the United States and these injuries occur in nearly every sport. They typically occur when your ankle twists or rolls when your foot is planted, or when another person steps on your ankle with force. These actions can stretch or tear the ligaments that hold your ankle bones and joints together.

Here are some tips to help you prevent ankle sprains:

  • Wear shoes that are appropriate for your sport and provide support
  • Try to avoid planting your feet on uneven surfaces
  • Warm up before playing sports
  • A quality injury prevention program that includes flexibility, mobility, strength, balance and agility training has been shown to be the most effective means of reducing ankle injury rates
  • If your ankle has been injured previously and you have done appropriately rehab, then you may also wrap it with a bandage or wear a brace for future sports, if desired

Here are some of the symptoms of an ankle sprain:

  • Continued pain (sprains may last for weeks or months)
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Redness
  • Bruising
  • Ankle instability
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Weakness

Follow the RICE approach with treating an ankle sprain:

  • Rest
  • Ice (Can be applied as needed to help with pain and no longer than 15 to 20 minutes at a time)
  • Compression (with a bandage wrap or brace, again if it helps with pain)
  • Elevation of the ankle above your heart
  • Early mobilization and range of motion are helpful, with focus on good exercises for the ankle
  • If needed, you can also use ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) to help reduce the pain

If your pain is intolerable or worsens after the first couple of days, you should visit a sports medicine physician because the injury could be more serious than a sprain. You may need an examination and testing – possibly with an x-ray or MRI – or physical therapy.

This article has been clinically reviewed by Jay Roberson, MD Sports Medicine Physician


Learn more about the Sports Medicine Center at Children's Mercy.