Unravelling the Complexity of Ankle Sprains

Written by Patrick Kirk on 12 June 2024

The Myth of the "Simple" Ankle Sprain

The phrase "It's just a simple ankle sprain" is as common in sporting environments as cheers and competitive spirit. However, as our understanding of these injuries deepens, we discover there's nothing simple about an ankle sprain. Far from being a minor inconvenience, ankle sprains are a significant concern within sports medicine and general healthcare due to their complexity and potential long-term effects.

Ankle Sprains: A Deeper Look

Ankle sprains are a prevalent injury, making up 5% of Emergency Department (ED) visits annually and constituting about 15% of sports-related injuries in Australia. These injuries usually affect the lateral aspect of the ankle, known as a Lateral Ankle Sprain (LAS). This commonality is partly due to our bipedal nature, which increases the risk of injuring the outer foot during typical movements like walking, turning, or stepping.

What makes an ankle sprain complicated is not just the immediate impact but its potential to lead into Chronic Ankle Instability. This risk stems from the ankle's intricate structure, consisting of three primary joints: the Inferior Tibiofibular, Talocrural, and Subtalar joints. These joints work in tandem to afford the ankle its range of motion and ability to transmit forces along the leg. However, this complexity also means that what appears as a straightforward sprain can easily evolve into a more debilitating condition if not properly assessed and treated.

The Ripple Effect of Ankle Sprains

The densely packed arrangement of small joints, each with its own ligaments, coupled with the multiple tendons in the ankle, means even minor injuries can have lasting effects. Damage to the ligaments or tendons can disrupt the joint's positional sense (deafferentation), complicating the brain's ability to perceive the foot and lower leg's positioning. Consequently, what is initially deemed a "simple" injury may encompass fractures, chondral lesions, or damage to smaller ligaments and tendons if overlooked.

Moreover, partial tears in the ankle's primary ligaments can alter force distribution through the foot and ankle, potentially leading to osteoarthritic changes in the joints. Thus, managing an ankle sprain transcends common home remedies like "walking it off" or applying ice.

Expert Care for Ankle Sprains

At SportsTec, we recognise the complexities inherent in ankle sprains. Our team of skilled physiotherapists conducts comprehensive assessments, leveraging cutting-edge technology, including our VALD Force Decks, to ensure an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan. Our goal is to facilitate a safe and rapid return to activity, free of pain or long-term complications, regardless of how "simple" the ankle injury may initially appear.

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