Frequently Asked Questions

I keep spraining my ankle doing the dumbest things. One time it was getting off my bicycle. Another time I stepped off the curb wrong. Last night, I tripped over the dog's tennis ball. I think I need to put some kind of splint or ace wrap on it. What would you suggest?

Ankle sprains are very common injuries. Multiple sprains are not uncommon -- especially when the damage hasn't been repaired. Even minor changes in sensation, motor control, and proprioception (joint sense of position) can lead to reinjuries. Ankle rehab has a major role in restoring normal joint function. A physical therapist can help you regain proprioceptive sense, motion, and strength. Specific training for balance, postural control, and proprioception is essential. The ankle can be taped or supported in an Air-cast, or lace-up support. For more serious ligamentous tears, the injured athlete may be put in a cast for a few weeks to allow for healing and to prevent reinjury. Studies show that lace-up supports may work the best. Taping can irritate the skin and takes quite a bit of time and expertise to apply. Elastic bandages are the least helpful. Semi-rigid supports such as the Aircast (also known as the Air-Stirrup) are about as effective as taping but provide for easier on and off application. The fact that you have reinjured the same side three times suggests the need for some professional help. See an orthopedic surgeon or physical therapist for a full evaluation and plan of care. Rehabilitation is usually advised first. If a three-to-six month program isn't successful and you keep reinjuring it, surgery may be needed to restabilize the joint.

Nicola Maffulli, MD, MS, PhD, FRCS, and Nicholas A. Ferran, MBBS, MRCSEd. Management of Acute and Chronic Ankle Instability. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. October 2008. Vol. 16. No. 10. Pp. 608-615.

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