We've all seen it, one wrong step and the day is done for the unlucky victim. An ankle sprain can ruin your whole weekend. Here's how to deal with it.
The Differences Between Sprains and Strains
Think of a strain as a joint problem (ankle, knee, wrist), and a sprain as a muscle problem (calf, thigh, bicep). When you get, your foot stuck in a gopher hole and take a tumble, expect an ankle sprain. Sprinting with a heavy load and feel a tearing in your calf? Could be a strain. Luckily, the treatment for both is the same
Prevention - Help prevent sprains and strains with a few simple rules.
Warm up & stretch before exercise! If you are going to be running around a field, make sure you get a good stretch in beforehand. It will loosen your muscles and joints and prepare your body for activity.
Watch your step! If you are moving on unfamiliar terrain, watch where you are walking. I have seen players taken out by tree branches and exposed roots because they were fixated on something and unaware of obstacles right in front of them.
Wear good footwear! Properly fit boots with good ankle support will protect you from occasional missteps. Thicker soles and taller cuts can help stop your ankles from rolling into a sprain.
Signs & Symptoms - For both strains and sprains expect:
Limited range of motion
Treatment - Deal with it & remember the RICE.
Rest the injured area. Do not exert the injured extremity. Continuing to hobble around on a sprained ankle is only going to make the injury take longer to heal. Avoid bearing weight on the injury for at least 24 hours.
Ice the injury. Apply cold compresses or ice packs to the painful area. It will help slow swelling and relieve pain. Ice the injury for 20-30 minutes every 4 hours.
Compress the area. Wrap the injury in an elastic bandage or cling gauze to help support and immobilize the site of injury. It will also help reduce swelling in the area. Do not wrap so tightly as to impede circulation. If you notice unusual spots or color, or darkening of the skin or blue tinted nailbeds, loosen the bandage. You may assess capillary refill to determine perfusion to the foot1.
Elevate the injury. Use gravity to your advantage to assist draining fluid from the injured extremity.
An NSAID like Advil or Motrin (Ibuprofen) can help alleviate pain and inflammation. As with any medication, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions.
The Boots - It can be a difficult decision about when to remove the footwear from the injured foot. Before you make this decision, take a couple of things into account:
Leaving the boot on may delay treatment that can help mitigate the injury. This may be necessary if you need to walk over hazardous terrain to leave the field, or drive using the injured foot. Considering having a buddy assist you with the support-carry technique pictured above.
Once the boot comes off, do not expect to put it back on. The inflammatory process will begin rapidly once the compression is removed, and the ankle may no longer physically fit into the boot within minutes of removal.
The key to recovering quickly from an ankle sprain is to get the weight off the injury as soon as practicable. Resist the urge to play through the pain as ankle injuries can become repetitive if not treated properly.
1To assess capillary refill, blanche a nail bed by firmly pressing on it until the color is gone from below the nail. If it takes longer than 2 seconds for the nail bed to pinken up, consider loosening the bandage to improve blood