By far the most common ankle injury is an ankle sprain. There are however other injuries which should also be looked out for.
A sprain is an injury to one or more ligaments. The most common form of ankle sprain is called an inversion sprain, which is where the ankle is twisted over so that the sole of the foot turns inwards (this movement is inversion). This causes damage to the ligaments on the outside of the ankle. There are three ligaments in this area and one or more can be damaged and to varying extents. A minor ankle sprain may only involve a partial tear to one of the ligaments.
Symptoms of an ankle sprain include:
- Instant pain on twisting the ankle.
- Rapid swelling.
- Bruising may develop after 1-3 days.
- Tenderness on the outside of the ankle, just below the ankle bone.
It is very important to treat an ankle sprain effectively as once injured, ankle sprains frequently reoccur. Once pain and swelling have decreased, a strengthening, stretching and balance exercise programme should be completed.
More information on a Sprained Ankle
A broken ankle may be a fracture (which is the same as a break!) to either (or both!) the Tibia or the Fibula bones, at their lower ends. It may also be a fracture to one of the small Tarsal bones which form the ankle and back of the foot. Often a broken ankle will occur in the same way as an ankle sprain and it may not be clear with minor fractures that there is a fracture present. For this reason, all moderate to severe ankle sprains should be X-rayed.
Symptoms of a broken ankle may be similar to that of an ankle sprain. More severe or larger breaks are often more obvious and there may be bone deformity.
Treatment of a fracture involves immobilising the ankle with a cast and reducing weight bearing either with crutches or a walking boot. After a period of 6-8 weeks the cast is removed and a full rehab programme should be followed.
More information on Broken Ankles
Achilles Tendon Ruptures
The achilles tendon is the large, thick tendon at the back of the ankle. It attaches the calf muscles to the heel bone. It can be ruptured through relatively simple movements and is most common in middle aged men.
Symptoms may include:
- A sudden pain at the back of the ankle
- A loud popping noise is often reported.
- An inability to contract the calf muscles or point the foot/toes away from you.
Treatment may include either surgical repair of the tendon, or casting in a shortened position so that it heals naturally.
More information on a Ruptured Achilles Tendon.
A tendinopathy (tendonitis) is a degenerative condition which affects a tendon (tissue which connects a muscle to a bone). It is an overuse injuries which tends to develop after increases or changes in training or footwear.
Symptoms may include:
Pain and stiffness in the achilles tendon.
The tendon may appear thicker and redder than the other side.
It may be tender to touch and little lumps called nodules may be felt.
More information on Achilles Tendonitis.
Shin splints is a commonly misdiagnosed condition. Many people believe that any pain towards the front of the lower leg is shin splints but this is not the case. True shin splints has a very distinct group of symptoms. It tends to develop gradually, getting worse as times goes on and often in response to a change in training (techniques or intensity) or footwear.
- Pain to the inside of the shin bone in the lower half of the lower leg.
- It is painful to touch this area, just inside the bone.
- Pain may ease as activity continues and then feels worse again afterwards.
More information on Shin Splints