What is it?

Lateral ankle injuries are some of the most common injuries in sport. They result from the outside of the foot rolling down and force going through the muscles and tendons when they are in an already stretched position. It often swells up and causes the injured person to walk with a limp for a few days. These can heal quickly or take a few weeks to recover with the rare need for surgery if the injury is serious enough.

How is it assessed?

The professional looking at the injury will often replicate the movement to see if it brings on the same pain. This is normally through a down and inward movement (this is the way the tendon stretches). A strength assessment will also be carried out getting the injured person to move their foot inwards, outwards, up, and down, to see if there is any pain doing this which may show other muscles which have been injured at the same time. If it is bad enough then they may be sent for an MRI scan to see how bad the injury is.

Rehab process

  • Most rehab will start with getting range of movement back in the foot by getting the person to bend and straighten their foot as best they can. A band or towel may be used to help get more movement if doing it just using the muscles around the ankle is too sore and stopping the range increasing.
  • Once this is back to a normal range, strength will be looked to increase by bending and straightening the foot against a band, pulling the foot in and out will also be worked on at this time. 
  • After this, single balance work will be carried out. This is to help build up the muscles in a more functional way. This may involve just standing on 1 leg for a set time or on an unstable surface such as a cushion. This will then be progressed onto using the non standing leg to go round a clock face in order to test the muscles even further and increase strength.
  • From here running may be attempted as this puts slightly more force through the joint and relies on the muscles being strong to stabilise the foot quickly and on changing surfaces.
  • This would then be progressed onto double leg then single leg jumping and hopping. This again increased the amount of force going through the joint and therefore makes the muscles have to be stronger.
  • Finally, sports specific movements such as cutting and change of direction will be worked on to test out the ankle in reactive circumstances before allowing the person to go back to playing sport.