Emily Champion

What is a lateral ankle sprain AND how does it happen? 


Lateral ankle sprains are one of the most common sporting injuries. In a lateral ankle sprain, the foot is inverted, or twisted inwards which places strain on the lateral (outside) ligaments of the ankle, causing injury to the fibres. Depending on how much force and strain is placed on these ligaments will depend on the severity of the sprain. 

There are three Grades of ankle sprains ranging from Grade I – III.


So what are the lateral ligaments of the ankle? 


There a various ligaments that make up the ankle complex. 
The lateral ligaments of the ankle consist of 


  1. Anterior Talofibular Ligament (ATFL) 
  2. Posterior Talofibular Ligament (PTFL) 
  3. Calcaneofibular Ligament (CFL) 

The most commonly injured lateral ankle ligament is the ATFL! 


What are the symptoms of a lateral ankle sprain? 


Symptoms will depend on the severity of the injury however the most common symptoms we see in a clinical scenario are


  1. Mechanism of injury – inversion/rolling of the ankle 
  2. Swelling and/or bruising over the lateral side of the ankle/foot  
  3. Tenderness to touch over the lateral ankle 
  4. Pain with weight bearing exercises and limping gait
  5. Loss of ankle strength and range of movement
  6. Instability and decreased balance 


Do I need an X-ray? 


If you think you may have laterally sprained your ankle, book in with your physiotherapist as soon as possible! In the initial assessment, your physiotherapist will determine whether an X-ray is required. The OTTAWA Ankle Rules will be performed by your physiotherapist. These rules are useful in determining the presence of a fracture for referral to X-ray. 


How do I manage a lateral ankle sprain? 


Initial management of an acute lateral ankle sprain is to reduce inflammation and pain following the RICE method. This method consists of rest, icing the ankle, compression and elevation. After the pain and swelling has reduced, your physiotherapist will work with you in regaining range of movement, weight bearing ability, gait re-training, strength and balance. Inadequate rehabilitation can lead to ongoing complications and risk of repetitive re-injury. 

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