Foot and ankle surgeons warn not to underestimate the seriousness of ankle sprains.
Every Thanksgiving, families across the United States gather to play one of America’s greatest pastimes, touch football. While most of these games end with everyone enjoying their turkey dinner, more than 25,000 people across the country will wake up on Black Friday with a serious ankle injury.
As one of the most common joint injuries, with more than three million occurring annually, many people perceive ankle sprains to be nonserious injuries that can be treated at home with rest and ice. However according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS), not seeking proper treatment can have serious long-term effects on a person’s return to functionality and can increase the likelihood of a future serious sprain. In fact, it’s estimated that 40 percent of people with ankle sprains will develop long-term joint issues. And for this reason, ACFAS warns people there is no such thing as “just a simple sprain.”
“The severity of an ankle sprain depends on whether the ligament is stretched, partially torn or completely torn, as well as the number of ligaments involved,” says Gregory Catalano, DPM, FACFAS, a Massachusetts foot and ankle surgeon and Fellow member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. “While the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation) combined with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, will minimize swelling and pain, we find that most patients do not give themselves enough time to rehabilitate and heal.”
ACFAS recommends that patients limit walking and exercise for two weeks following an ankle sprain. People should also monitor for the indicators of a more serious sprain that would require treatment from a foot and ankle surgeon, including:
redness, swelling or pain in other regions of the leg, which can be a sign of a blood clot
weight on the affected foot continues to be painful with the inability to walk more than a few steps without pain
five to seven days passing with no improvement to the ankle
swelling or bruising lasting more than two weeks
an inability to bear weight, a deformity or severe midfoot swelling below the ankle
An untreated ankle sprain may lead to chronic ankle instability, a condition marked by persistent discomfort and the giving way of the ankle. Even for mild sprains, a foot and ankle surgeon may suggest early physical therapy, including prescribed exercises to promote healing and increase range of motion.