Ankle Injuries: Part 1

Posted by SportsMed NQ, 16 October 2014

Ankle Injuries: Part 1

Ankle pain is fairly common amongst the general population, especially those involved in sports. With many summer sports starting up again after an off season, ankle sprains are more prevalent than ever. However, ankle pain on its own could have a number of root causes.

Acute ankle injuries are normally associated with sporting accidents, but you do not have to be an athlete to sustain an ankle injury or experience ankle pain. It can happen in old and young alike. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, approximately 25 000 people sprain their ankles every day. Rolling an ankle while participating in sports due to uneven ground or missing a step while walking across the road are just two examples of how someone can sustain an ankle injury.

Common ankle injuries include:

-          Achilles tendon rupture or tear

-          Achilles tendinopathies – overuse tendonitis/tendinosous

-          Calf muscle tearsankle

-          Heel spurs

-          High ankle sprain

-          Lower ankle sprain

-          Nerve impingement

-          Plantarfasciitis

-          Sever’s disease

-          Shin splints

-          And many more!

What are the common causes of ankle injuries?

The ankle joint is made up of various muscles, tendons, bones and ligaments that help the ankle function normally. Ankle injuries are normally categorised by the type of structure you injure i.e. fractures (bony injuries), sprains (ligaments), strains or tears (muscles and tendons) and overuse injuries (tendinopathies).

The ankle joint consists of three main bones: the tibia (shin bone); the fibula (thin outer shin bone); and the talus (ankle and foot bone). These bones are stabilised by various ligaments or connective tissue that restricts excessive range of motion in your ankle joint.

The muscles surrounding your ankle joint also restrict range of motion in your ankle joint actively rather than passively (ligaments). In other words through activating your muscles around your ankle joint one moves the foot and ankle while also stabilising your ankle joints to prohibit over stretching of your ligaments. However, if your ankle muscles are too weak or too slow to withstand outside forces around your ankle, your ankle ligaments are put under too much stress and may result in an ankle sprain or ligament rupture.

Fractures occur when there is a break in one of your bones. The most common ankle fracture is an avulsion fracture of the distal fibula where connective tissue breaks off a small part of the bone.

Other fractures around the ankle and foot can be from overuse injuries or high impact traumas which need to be assessed and treated by your physiotherapist or health care professional properly to avoid further damage.

Muscle strains or tendon tears are also commonly sustained in lower limbs especially during sporting activities. These muscles or tendons can become injured or inflamed due to acute trauma or overuse through ongoing strain if they have not healed or been properly treated. They can also tear, completely rupture or sublux or move out of place.

How can Physiotherapy help?

Evidently, there are many different injuries, which make it even more important to accurately diagnose and treat what is wrong with your ankle to avoid any exacerbations and achieve your short-term and long-term goals either return to sport or everyday activities.

Physiotherapy can help with correct assessment, acute injury management, and physical therapy treatment such as stretching and strengthening as able, with the majority of ankle and foot injuries responding extremely well to physiotherapy allowing you to quickly return to pain free and normal function of everyday activities.

If you have an ankle injury or think you would benefit from a physiotherapy ankle assessment please feel free to ask reception for an appointment.

Stay tuned for further parts of our ankle series where we learn about the most common ankle sprain and early management of acute ankle sprains.

Written by Philippe OeiPhil

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