Sprained Ankle : Running Injuries

The ankle joint is very susceptible to injury during running. Sprains are more likely to occur if the joint is weakened through being constantly overexerted or if you are running on uneven terrain.

Anatomy of the Ankle Joint

The ankle is a hinge joint that joins the leg to the foot. It is made up of the tibia, fibula, talus and calceneus bones, and the talocrural, inferior tibio-fibular and subtalar joints. Ligaments that surround the bone play a crucial role in maintaining the stability of the ankle joint.

What Causes Ankle Sprains?

The ankle can become sprained if the ligaments are overstretched, twisted or ruptured. It is most likely to happen when runners go over on their ankle and their entire body weight suddenly presses down on the outer talo-fibular ligament. Mild sprains may only result in the ligament being overstretched, but more serious sprains can completely rupture the ligament. Cross-country runners who run on uneven ground are more likely to suffer a sprain than those who run on flat, even surfaces. Foot imbalance caused by over-pronation is another common cause of ankle sprains. Not warming up properly before running will also increase the likelihood of getting a sprained ankle.

What are the Symptoms of a Sprained Ankle?

If you have sprained you ankle, you will experience pain, swelling and bruising. You will also have trouble putting weight on the injured ankle and the joint’s range of movement will be limited.

Preventing a Sprained Ankle

Doing regular stretching exercises to stay flexible and ensuring that you warm up before a run will help to protect your ankles from injury. Ensuring you have a good running technique and your weight is distributed evenly will also decrease the risk of a sprain. Wearing the correct footwear that provides your ankles with adequate protection is also crucial in preventing injuries. It is a good idea to wear insoles that support the arches of your feet, as this will help to reduce over-pronation.

Treating a Sprained Ankle

Using the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation) is crucial immediately after sustaining a sprained ankle. Resting the ankle and wrapping it in compression bandages will speed up the healing process. Applying ice packs (ensuring the ice isn’t in direct contact with your skin) for 15 minutes several times a day and elevating the ankle so it is above the level of your heart will help to decrease swelling. Taking anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen in the short term will also help to reduce pain and inflammation. For the first 3 days after getting a sprained ankle you should rest completely and avoid putting weight on the ankle. You should also avoid heat, alcohol and massaging the ankle as this may increase swelling and it won’t heal as quickly. Surgery is not necessary when treating a sprained ankle because the bone is not damaged. Depending on the severity of the sprain, recovery time can take 1-6 weeks. Changing your running shoes and using sports insoles can speed up the healing process.

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