Take a Sprained Ankle Injury Seriously

Posted 11/23/2015 | By HealthCorps

A kid with a suspected broken bone will be rushed off a sports field, or a playground, or a school yard and rushed to the emergency room for immediate evaluation and treatment. This is of course the proper way to handle a suspected fracture in a bone. But attitudes are quite different when the injury is a possible sprained ankle. Often considered just a minor nuisance, a mid-diagnosed or poorly treated sprained ankle can actually end up being a lingering chronic condition, potentially affecting your quality of life for years to come. That means if your child or teen somehow sprains their ankle, and the injury is not given proper attention, it can become a lifelong problem. Some recent studies on animals and people confirm that a poorly treated sprained ankle can potentially impact your movements for life.

Think about it. Those two ankles you stand on daily, for hours, supports pretty much the rest of your body (and your weight). You probably never think about how delicate your ankles are. A sudden twist during a game of tennis, missing a step as you walk, carrying a pregnancy with significant extra weight can cause ligaments around your ankle joint(s) to stretch or tear, resulting in an ankle sprain. You give it a bit of rest, ice it down for a few days, put on an ace bandage, take anti-inflammation medication, and you assume it’s healed once the pain disappears. You probably didn’t even check with your doctor.

Some new studies raise questions about whether sprained ankle injuries should be handled with any measure of indifference. The researcher and her team recruited 20 college students that had chronic ankle instability (caused by sprains that weakened their ankles) and 20 healthy students. All 40 subjects were asked to wear a pedometer for 7 days, and variables like BMI differences and general health were controlled for.

The researchers noted that the college students with ankle instability clocked significantly less steps, about 2000 less steps on average per day, compared to the healthy students. The results supported findings from another earlier mouse study. Adult mice were split into two groups. One group had sham surgery, meaning cuts were made on their ankles and then sutured, while the other group had ligament surgery that mimicked a sprained ankle injury. All the animals were permitted healing time and then over a year their mileage was tracked. The mice with the true ligament surgery ran significantly less miles on their wheels compared to the sham surgery group. The mice with the impaired ankle ligaments (due to lack of complete healing), also had impaired balance issues and overall unstable ankles.

The researchers continued to follow the mice till they passed away (about another year) and they found that in the group with the impaired ankle function, the instability lasted till death. The group continued to run less mileage and also ran at slower speeds. The obvious lesson extrapolated was, “Don’t ignore a sprained ankle, and if possible, avoid sprains at all costs.” If you do sustain a sprain, seek medical attention, and if the ankle does not appear to heal well, request a prescription for a physical therapist. He will test your balance and look for signs of persistent instability.

To avoid a sprain always warm up before any exercise or physical activity. Make sure the exercise shoe you wear fits well, and that it offers appropriate stability for the particular sport or exercise you are doing. There are also specific sports shoes for pronator and supinator issues (if when you stand your ankles bend in a bit or outward). Ice down after any vigorous exercise. Cross train with different aerobic activities so you perform different activities that challenge your ankles in a variety of ways. This will help to strengthen your ankles and limit injuries. Avoid overuse and make sure you gradually build up to long runs by speed walking and jogging first. Hand off these recommendations to your teen so they can also avoid this annoying injury.

As parents, be especially vigilant and make sure that any suspected ankle injuries that your child or teen sustains, are checked out by your pediatrician.

Sources: Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
New York Times

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