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The who, what and how on lateral ankle sprains


Lateral ankle sprains (LAS) are injuries that happen to the ligament/s of the outer part of the ankle.

These ligaments are called the anterior talo-fibular ligament, anterior tibiofibular ligament and the calcaneofibular ligament. This ligament attaches to the talus, a bone in the foot, and the fibula, one of the two bones in the leg (shin).

The typical signs and symptoms that are associated with this injury include:

  • Pain felt in the area of the outer part of the ankle
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Joint instability (feels like it will ‘give way’)


LAS’ is a common problem and occur at a rate of one injury per 10,000 people a day.

It makes up a quarter of all sports injuries. The highest incidence of LAS was found in aero ball, basketball, volleyball, field sports and climbing (reference), soccer/football.

There is a greater chance of sustaining a LAS If you have;

  • Limited dorsiflexion range of movement (bringing your toes/foot up towards your shin)
  • Reduced proprioception (reduced ability to know where your body is in space, in your ankle)
  • Reduced strength in the foot/ankle muscles
  • Reduced coordination
  • Reduced cardiorespiratory endurance
  • Decreased reaction time of peroneal muscles (muscles responsible for stabilising your ankle)


A LAS is caused by the ankle rolling in whilst the foot pointing downwards. In this position the ligament on the outside of the ankle (strips of supportive bands that hold the ankle joint together) are placed on a stretch, therefore causing them to sprain or potentially tear
The severity of ankle sprains is divided into three grades.
Grade I – mild stretching of the ligament without joint instability
Grade II – partial rupture (tear) of the ligament with mild joint instability
Grade III – complete rupture of the ligament with joint instability

How can physiotherapy help?

  • Professional Advice and Education – provide you with the correct information about the injury and the steps to move forward and return to your activities.
  • RICE – Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate – Teach you the procedure of promoting tissue healing and minimising the symptoms that you are experiencing within the initial injury window (reference)
  • Exercise Therapy – strengthening, coordination and proprioception training to rehabilitate the area and work towards preventing further occurrences.
  • Taping/Protective Equipment – providing external support to the area to add stability whilst rehabilitating the ankle, and to prevent further occurrences.

Be it a one off or a recurring problem, if you have or somebody you know has sprained their ankle, let them know that our Physiotherapists at Optimum Health Solutions are here to speak to them, and run them through a thorough assessment and treatment using the current evidence to help them out.

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