Not “Just” an Ankle Sprain

Published: 13 Jul 2021

Not “Just” an Ankle Sprain

Remember the good old times when you could refer to your ankles as right and left… instead of good and bad?

Ankle sprains are very common injuries seen in our clinics and can have long term impacts on your participation at work and in sport. However alarmingly approximately 55% of patients who sustain an ankle sprain do not seek medical attention!

What exactly is an ankle sprain?

A sprained ankle is an injury that occurs when you roll your ankle into an awkward position. This results in stretching or tearing of the strong tissue (ligaments) which holds your bones together. 85% of ankle sprains occur on the outside part of your foot. This tends to be because the ligaments on this side are weaker. The ankle is usually rolled in an inwards direction, as pictured in the photo below. There are lots of other important structures around your ankle joint that can be injured so it is very important to seek a medical opinion as soon as possible. Some other injuries affecting the ankle joint include: fractures, dislocations, muscle strains, tendon strains and tendon dislocations.

This image shows the structures under pressure with an inversion injury – when you roll your ankle.

Ankle sprains and sport

Research shows that ankle sprains are more common sports that include twisting, landing and jumping, including: soccer, netball, rugby league, basketball, indoor volleyball, tennis and climbing.

Approximately 73% of athletes have repeated ankle sprains.

  • Signs and symptoms may include some of the following:’
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Reduced strength
  • Stiffness
  • Difficulty putting weight onto your foot
  • Poor balance
  • Feeling like your ankle will give way


It is important that you receive proper management for your ankle sprains as there are risks of ongoing pain, stiffness and sprains in the future if your injury is not treated appropriately. It is estimated that about 20% of people develop these problems after a first-time ankle sprain.

Physios are highly skilled in assessing the extent of damage and ensuring a safe return to sport and work. This may involve putting your ankle into a moon boot for a period of time to protect your ankle joint and help stimulate the recovery of your ligaments. Treatment typically involves hands-on manual therapy to help improve your range of motion as well as exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding your ankle joint and help improve your balance. The overall goal of treatment is to eliminate your pain, weakness or instability and prevent any ankle sprains in the future.

If you have recently injured your ankle, had ongoing ankle pain or are constantly on edge waiting till you roll your ankle again, book an appointment at one of our clinics. Our physios have plenty of experience in assessing ankle injuries and designing effective rehab programs to help you get back to sport, work or just everyday life with no more ankle issues!


  1. Ferran, Nicholas & Maffulli, Nicola. (2006). Epidemiology of Sprains of the Lateral Ankle Ligament Complex. Foot and ankle clinics. 11. 659-62. 10.1016/j.fcl.2006.07.002.
  2. Gribble PA, Delahunt E, Bleakley C, et al. Selection criteria for patients with chronic ankle instability in controlled research: a position statement of the International Ankle Consortium. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2013;43(8):585-591. doi:10.2519/jospt.2013.0303
  3. Hauser, Ross & Dolan, E & Phillips, H & Newlin, A & Moore, R & Woldin, Barbara. (2013). Ligament Injury and Healing: A Review of Current Clinical Diagnostics and Therapeutics. The Open Rehabilitation Journal. 6. 10.2174/1874943701306010001.
  4. Petersen W, Rembitzki IV, Koppenburg AG, et al. Treatment of acute ankle ligament injuries: a systematic review. Arch Orthop Trauma Surg. 2013;133(8):1129-1141. doi:10.1007/s00402-013-1742-5