You know the feeling, you’re just taking a step or landing from a jump, and the next thing you know, your ankle has rolled over and you are on the ground. Pain, swelling, limping and several weeks of suffering are yours.
The ankle is one of the most commonly injured joints in the body. The vast majority of the time, the roll is with the outside of the foot going down. This is referred to as inversion. While the injury is very common, the incidence of a serious ligament tear or fracture are very rare. Less than 5% of these injuries require surgery or direct medical intervention.
Interestingly, the treatment for these injuries has remained the same for at least 30 years. I know this because I started injuring my ankles in my mid-teens and nothing has changed since then. At least nothing main-stream. But there is some information out there that is beginning to change that. A physio-therapist in New Zealand, Brian Mulligan has been making the claim that what we call an “ankle sprain” may not be the whole picture and can be treated with manual therapy and taping. Dick “Coach” Hartzell, an American inventor and football coach, came up with a way of working with ankle injuries that is very effective and unconventional. With a title like Don’t Ice that Ankle Sprain his book documents the techniques that lead to much quicker recovery and rehab/prehab for ankle strength and mobility.
Brian Mulligan and Coach Hartzell have both figured out that while ligaments may be torn (ant. Talo-fibular for you anatomy folks) the pain, swelling and stiffness are from joint trauma. Ligament are outside the joint, so tearing them shouldn’t create significant swelling in the joint.
Coach Hartzell and colleagues have documented over 1000 treatments of sports inversion sprains. Their amazing results should speak for themselves, but not enough people are listening. I have personally worked with 4 people in the immediate aftermath of ankle “sprains” and in two cases the players have returned to play 2 days later with only minimal taping. I have worked with dozens more days, weeks or years after injury.