Lateral Ankle Sprain


Lateral ankle sprains are one of the most commonly seen sporting injuries around Brisbane playing fields every weekend. Lateral ankle sprains are so common because they are so easy to do; a quick change of direction on unstable ground, stepping into a slight hole or divot in the ground, or landing on a opponents foot in netball can all result in a sprain.

The mechanism of injury results in the foot rolling outwards. This outward rotation or inversion as it is known causes the ligaments on the outside of the ankle to become stressed, stretched and may tear them. Rolling the ankle will also stress on other structures such as muscles and tendons of the ankle/foot. The peroneal muscles of the lower leg are frequently strained, become weakened and need rehabilitated appropriately if stability is to return to the ankle. Sometimes there will be a small fracture in the ankle, this will alter your rehabilitation significantly. For this reason it is best to see a physiotherapist after a lateral ankle sprain and we can do specific tests to work out the extent of your injury and plan. Both doctors and physiotherapists can refer for x-rays if a fracture is suspected.


Signs and symptoms of a lateral ankle sprain:

  • Pain on twisting your ankle.
  • Sometimes you will hear a popping sound when you sprain your ankle.
  • Tenderness around the fibular (bone on the outside of your ankle.
  • Stiffness of the ankle.
  • Uncomfortable on weigh bearing.
  • Instability of the ankle. Stand on one leg and close your eyes if you wobble around then you may have some ankle instability.


Physiotherapy treatments include:

  • RICED (Rest, Ice, Compression, elevation and diagnosis).
  • Exercises to restore movement to the ankle, these need to be started almost immediately to ensure a fast recovery.
  • Massage to reduce swelling.
  • Mobilisations to the ankle joint to restore full movement and to stimulate recovery of the ligaments.
  • Mobilisations with movement.
  • Strengthening the stabilising ankle muscles.
  • Proprioceptive rehabilitative exercises to regain stability of the ankle.
  • Sports specific rehabilitation.
  • Strapping/bracing to ensure another injury doesn’t occur.

Frequently people who sprain their ankles will resprain them in the future. This is because the ligaments damaged in an ankle sprain can take a long time to heal. This results in instability of the ankle that will require improved muscle control to prevent this from happening again. Also frequently the time wasn’t take to fully rehabilitate the ankle. Sometimes one session with a physiotherapist will restore your movements and set you on the path to being injury free once again.