Predicting Lasting Symptoms After An Initial Ankle Sprain

Ankle sprains are one of the most common orthopedic injuries we see in our Boulder Physical Therapy practice.  These injuries create local pain, swelling, loss of motion, weakness, and balance difficulties.  In past years these injuries were treated with R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, and elevation), but more recent research has demonstrated improved outcomes and faster recovery with a more active approach.  Athletes treated with manual therapy and exercise by a Physical Therapist demonstrate superior outcomes than those treated with R.I.C.E.  The greatest limitation of the R.I.C.E. and wait and see approach involves prolonging treatment which may lead to lasting chronic symptoms throughout the lower extremity.  

A recent article in the American Journal of Sports Medicine attempted to identify predictors of chronic symptoms and balance difficulties among athletes after an ankle sprain (Doherty et al. 2016).  The authors followed 82 patients who sustained a first time ankle sprain.  The athletes were examined at 3 times points: 2 weeks, 6 months, and 12 months post injury.  At 12 months patients with lasting, chronic symptoms were identified and their data was analyzed to determine if prior clinical data could predict their lack of recovery.  The authors noted patients who were unable to complete landing and jumping tasks at 2 weeks post injury and/or were unable to demonstrate balance in multiple planes of movement demonstrated the greatest risk of lasting pain and symptoms.  

Individuals who sustain an ankle sprain are advised to contact their local Physical Therapist as soon as possible to accelerate recovery and prevent chronic symptoms.