One of the most common lower leg injuries an athlete may suffer at some point in competition or practice is an ankle sprain. Many athletes know the feeling of stepping on a foot while landing from a rebound, blocking a shot or from jumping up to catch a pass. The foot rolls underneath the ankle, it pops, and the body falls limp to the ground in pain. Ache, burning, throbbing and persistent pain ensues.
So what should the athlete, coach or parent do? Walk it off? Call an ambulance? Heat, ice, crutches? I often have parents or athletes call my clinic asking this very question, or the player arrives from practice in agony.
I am a large proponent of minimizing trauma and expediting recovery. Pain is a great indicator of what not to do. Initial trauma begins a cascade of events eventually resulting in pain or swelling. What are some tips to aiding in recovery?
- Assess for deformities to the joint and decide base level of function: basic range of motion, ability to accept weight on the leg.
- Ice and compression to the area for 10-15 minutes can aid in reducing initial trauma and reduce secondary tissue damage occurring to surrounding tissues from swelling.
- Use an ACE wrap to create compression to the ankle and reduce swelling. However, adding a horseshoe greatly aids in healing. A horseshoe is a felt pad placed on the ankle bone at the side of the ankle. Place the bone in the “U” of the horseshoe and then apply the ACE wrap to the foot. Two reasons for the horseshoe: it reduces swelling to the damaged tissue to improve healing but also reduces tissue damage to surrounding tissues.
- Start the ACE wrap just above the toes and work towards the knee. Ace wrap is tightest at the toes and slowly become looser as applied towards the knee. This will encourage flow of swelling back to the heart.
- Apply wrap with a crisscross pattern. This will decrease likelihood of constriction at one spot on the foot or ankle.
Overall, ACE wraps are commonplace when treating an ankle sprain, however the felt horseshoe is often not used. By adding this simple and cost-effective application to an ankle sprain, the healing process is greatly improved.
What are common treatment methods you use to aid in the recovery process of your ankle sprain?
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