Protect that ankle!

A “simple” twist now can expose you to bigger problems down the line

MensHealth.com—April 25, 2011

By John Kennedy, M.D.

Ankle sprains are the single most common sports injury across the globe in both professional athletes and weekend warriors alike. In fact, recent data suggest that as many as 23,000 ankle sprains occur each and every day in the United States alone, causing a significant time lost to injury at all levels of competition. The ankle sprain was the injury most recorded during both the 2008 Summer Olympics and 2010 Men’s Soccer World Cup. What you may not realize about an ankle sprain, however, is the real—and lasting—damage that you are actually causing to your ankle joint.

While our mothers, fathers, and coaches may have once told most of us to “suck it up” and go play after an ankle sprain, we now know that may not be the best recipe for success. While degrees of ankle sprains can vary, the steps taken thereafter should not. The “RICE” acronym—rest, ice, compress, and elevate—should be followed diligently until you can visit your physical therapist, who can then decide when and how to progress you through the range of motion and balance exercises that are so crucial in getting you (and keeping you) back on the playing field.

Typically, the concern isn’t whether the ankle ligaments will heal after a sprain—approximately 70 percent of patients will recover fine with the proper physical therapy and avoid the need for surgery. Rather, the bigger problem associated with ankle sprains is the damage that can result to the cartilage—the slippery gliding surface of the ankle joint. In fact, as many as 50 percent of patients will suffer some type of cartilage injury from the so-called “simple ankle sprain.” Damage to the articular cartilage predisposes younger, active individuals to an increased risk of arthritis in the long-term.

Read Dr. Kennedy's full column for "Doctors on Call: Advice and Insight from the Frontlines of Medicine" at menshealth.com.

 

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