Understanding the ankle: sprains

What is this ?

A sprain, whether of the ankle or any other joint, represents a more or less significant stretch, which can lead to a complete tear of a ligament (structure that binds two bones together). The most common ankle sprain is that of the anterior fibulotalar ligament and is most often associated with trauma (e.g. fall).


Who could be affected?

An ankle sprain is one of the most common injuries. Involvement of the lateral collateral ligaments accounts for 85% of cases. Sprains can happen in any sport, especially in those involving change of direction such as basketball, soccer, volleyball. This can also happen during a fall or when the ankle is exposed to unstable surfaces that can destabilize it.


What does it look like ?

Since these structures are very well vascularized, your foot may swell and change color in the hours following the accident. Symptoms can vary greatly depending on the severity of the injury, but may look like:

  • Difficulty putting weight on the affected foot
  • Pain on palpation
  • Bruising (bruising or bleeding under the skin), edema and swelling
  • Limited range of motion


How can physiotherapy help?

Ligaments are structures that connect two bones together and whose function is to inform our body about its position in space in order to protect it. So when we turn our ankle, we increase the tension in our ligament which sends the message to the brain to contract muscles to counter the potentially dangerous movement for the joint. When we had a sprain, our ligaments were stretched and/or torn which delayed the message to the brain and therefore made the ankle less stable given that it now has a lower quality of information compared to its original. position (eg: imagine that you are walking in a room with your eyes closed). It is therefore in physiotherapy that we not only strengthen the structures around the ankle but readapt the ligaments in order to fulfill their proprioceptive role.