Ankle sprains are one of the most common sports injuries and have one of the highest recurrence
rates. It’s common to see people return to sport or physical activity after a few weeks of rest once the pain has settled, but we often find that there will be repeated sprains on one or both ankles,
limiting a person’s ability to participate in their favourite activities. If this sounds like you, read on to
find out why you may be experiencing recurrent sprains and what you can do about it!

Changes after an ankle sprain:
After an ankle sprain, there will often be symptoms such as pain, stiffness, instability or range
limitation. With proper management, the pain from these injuries can often diminish or resolve
completely within days or weeks. However, just because the pain is gone it doesn’t always mean
the ankle is fully recovered. There will often be ongoing changes to strength, range of motion,
balance and proprioception (your brain’s ability to sense the position of your joint). These may not
be evident until your ankle is challenged by more difficult activities, such as during sporting
activities or on uneven ground. These changes increase the likelihood of another sprain and
contribute to the high recurrence rate seen with this injury. Without correct rehabilitation these
deficits may persist for months, even after just a single sprain, with 40% of ankle sprains
developing chronic symptoms. Although the injuries may be partly caused by external factors or
bad luck, it’s important to consider the modifiable factors to reduce the likelihood as much as

Development of chronic ankle instability:
Inadequate recovery of the ankle puts you at higher risk of chronic ankle instability further down the
line, which is characterised by greater than 12 months of pain, loss of function or recurrent ankle
sprains. Because approximately 20% of people who sprain their ankle will develop chronic ankle
instability, it is best to get on top of this early to prevent recurrent ankle sprains and/or loss of
function that is associated with the condition. While not all people will experience ongoing deficits
or changes in function, but an appropriate period of rehabilitation will minimise the chance of your
symptoms persisting.

How can we help?
A physiotherapist can provide comprehensive assessment to determine any impairments of the
ankle, as well as provide treatments to improve these deficits. This may include hands-on
treatment, education about management strategies and activity levels, or an individualised
exercise program including sports-specific movements, as well as other supports such as taping
and bracing. They’ll also advise on the best management strategies to prevent further injuries to
your ankles or other parts of your body in the future, so you can keep doing the things you love!