Are your kids are suffering from recurrent ankle sprains? Let me help you understand why….

What is an ankle sprain? This is the term used when the ankle is “twisted” or “rolled”, and the ligaments that support the ankle become overstretched.

Recurrent ankle sprains account for one of the most common sporting injuries in Australian sport. Sports Medicine Australia estimates that 80% of these are inversion sprains. Without the medical jargon, this means that the ankle is sprained inwards, with injury to the ligaments and structures on the outside aspect of the ankle.

Your child has probably come to you after an ankle sprain complaining of pain, swelling and maybe an inability to walk normally (or at all!). Sometimes it can be difficult to know how to treat this and how serious they are.

An easy way to understand the severity and appropriate treatment for your child is to understand the grading of ankle sprains. There are three, however some sprains can fall into a mix of categories, and it is important to seek appropriate medical advice for accurate diagnosis and management.


Grade 1: They may complain of minimal pain and loss of motion in the joint, mild pain with motion, and little to no instability.

Grade 2: This indicates moderate to severe pain, moderate instability, swelling and stiffness, pain with weight bearing and loss of balance.

Grade 3: Severe swelling, poor balance and difficulty weight bearing.

In management of these sprains, your medical professional may decide to X-ray the ankle to clear any bone fractures.

Sports Medicine Australia has produced some very easy to follow protocols for early management of ankle sprains. Management of non-surgical injuries in the short term follows the R.I.C.E.R. protocol. This stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation and Referral – to an appropriate medical or allied health professional. You should also not cause H.A.R.M. – Heat, Alcohol, Running or activity, or Massage.

Rest – Rest will help prevent further injury of the joint. Aiming to be non-weight bearing will enable efficient healing.

Ice – Post injury icing is effective for 24-72 hours, aiming to apply an ice pack for 20 minutes every two hours. Ice should not be applied directly to the skin. Applying ice will reduce swelling, pain and bleeding.

Compression – Wrapping the ankle in a crepe or elastic bandage will compress the injured area to reduce swelling and bleeding. Ensure that the bandage isn’t so tight that the extremity loses circulation.

Elevation – Elevation will encourage the return of swelling and circulation back to the heart. You may choose to elevate the foot on a pillow during the rest phase.

Referral – Always seek advice and medical assistance from the appropriate health care professional for accurate diagnosis, treatment and management.

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On following a supervised Return to Play protocol, your Osteopath, having the ankle taped and/or wearing a brace is helpful in giving support and comfort during the healing process. Graded rehabilitation is important to ensure that the ligaments and other affected structures have time to heal, this generally takes three weeks for minor sprains but it can be longer.

Did you know that Osteopaths can treat sprains and strains and provide sound rehabilitation advice in regards to ankle injuries? Contact your local Osteopath today to find out how we can help you and your family.