The bones and joint of the ankle are held in position by ligaments, which stretch with the movement of the ankle to protect it from twisting, turning and rolling of the foot. If the ligament is stretched too far, such as when the foot rolls or turns further than normal, this places excess pressure of the joint when landing. This causes the elastic fibres to stretch to far, and in severe sprains the ligaments may tear.
This is a very common injury. It can happen to anyone, not just to athletes. Children and adults are just as likely to sprain an ankle as they walk down the street and stepping off a curb or slipping on ice. The explosive side-to-side movement of the foot, in tennis and basketball, is when the ankle is most at risk. Believe it or not, everyday there are about 25,000 ankle sprains in the United States.
A number of factors can increase the risk of ankle sprains, especially
- Poor ankle flexibility
- Lack of stretching or warm-up before sports activities
- Running on uneven surfaces
- Wearing shoes that do not have adequate heel support
- Wearing high-heeled shoes, because they only have a small support base.
Should you damage your ankle, it is advisable to see a doctor. It may be necessary to order x-rays to ensure there are no broken bones. The physical exam may be painful. The doctor may need to move your ankle to see which ligament has been damaged.
If the ligaments are completely torn, the ankle may become unstable at a later stage. If this happens, the injury may possibly also cause damage to the surface of the ankle joint itself. A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) may be necessary if the doctor suspects a very severe injury to the ligaments, the joint surface or a small bone.