Ankle injuries are probably the most common, not only among runners but also tennis players, rugby players, footballers… in fact, any sport that involves movement on the feet will see a lot of ankle injuries. Ankle injuries are not limited to sports either; even something as simple as walking on an uneven pavement can cause us a painful sprain or worse. Apparently half of all ankle injuries happen during athletic activity – the rest occur while we are just going about our daily lives.
The problem with an ankle injury is that it is also incredibly inconvenient! With an injured wrist or shoulder we can still be up and about, and even still train or work out – but an ankle injury can put a stop to all of that, at least to begin with.
The most common ankle injury is a sprain, or perhaps a fracture. These involve the bones and ligaments in the ankle. However it is also possible to tear or strain a tendon in the ankle, and this can often be just as painful as a fracture.
Here are some first aid tips for ankle injuries to help you to have a speedy recovery:
- First, determine exactly what the injury is. If there was any form of snapping or grinding noise when you first injured your ankle, it may well be fractured and you should go to A&E for an x-ray.
- If there is pain around the soft tissue areas of the ankle but not over the bone, the injury is most probably a sprain.
- Follow the RICE protocol: Rest; Ice; Compress; Elevate.
- Rest your ankle as much as possible. This might even involve borrowing a pair of crutches so that you can get about without putting weight on it.
- Ice: when an injury first occurs there is usually internal bleeding of the muscles and tissues, and this is what causes swelling. By applying ice we can help to limit the blood flow and therefore limit or bring down any swelling. Try to ice your ankle as soon as possible after the injury, and continue to ice it for around 20 minutes, four to eight times per day for the first 48 hours. It is important not to use ice for too long though, as this could cause damage to the tissue.
- Compress: tube-grip type bandages or compression tape can help to support the ankle as it recovers.
- Elevate: keeping your ankle well elevated, ideally above the heart, will help to limit or prevent swelling. This can be hard to do during the day, especially if you have to work, but try to lay on the floor with your legs against a wall at every available opportunity.
- Seek medical assistance if:
- Your ankle is still very painful after a couple of days – it may be a fracture after all, or the ligament may be completely torn.
- Your ankle develops red streaks spreading out from the injured area – this may indicate an infection.
- This is a recurrent injury that has happened several times before.