Ankle Sprains - Physio Direct NZ

Ankle Sprains

What is an Ankle Sprain?

Almost everyone has twisted their ankle at some in their life; in fact, it is one of the most common reasons for people to visit an emergency department. Technically an ankle sprain has occurred when an ankle twists, causing damage to one of it’s supporting ligaments. The ligaments can be overstretched, partially torn or completely ruptured, depending on the force of the injury. The ligament that is most often involved is the ATFL. ATFL stands for the anterior-talofibular ligament, located on the outside of the ankle.

While there are many ligaments surrounding and supporting the ankle, this ligament is the most vulnerable as it stops the ankle from rolling inwards. This is the way that most ankles are injured. Athletes who jump while moving in different directions, such as basketball players, are actually the most prone to this injury. They often land on their foot when it is not completely flat, twisting it and injuring the ligaments.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Most people won’t have any problem diagnosing that they have a sprained ankle. The symptoms are pain, swelling and tenderness over the area of damage, usually the outside of the ankle. Depending on the severity of the injury, there many be bruising, reduced range of movement, instability and pain with weight bearing. In more severe injuries there may even be a loss of function, where you are unable to walk on the ankle and numbness and/or a feeling of coldness in the foot.

Why should I see a physiotherapist?

Twisted ankles can also cause a fracture of the ankle, not just ligament damage. Oftentimes a bad sprain and a fracture cannot be told apart without proper medical assessment and an X-ray. Your physiotherapist is able to identify if your sprain is severe enough to need further investigation to rule out a fracture. They will also classify the severity of the sprain, providing you with a clear course of treatment. There are many factors that can lead someone to be more prone to fractures, including general hyper flexibility, unsupportive footwear and anatomical structure, however by far the most common reason for an ankle sprain is the existence of a previous sprain without complete rehabilitation.

This is because following an ankle sprain, many people are left with weakness, instability or stiffness, reduced balance and proprioception – which is a sense of where your body is positioned. These things can mean that the next time your ankle is in a vulnerable position you don’t have the strength, awareness of position, balance or structural control to ensure it is in the correct position before putting all your weight through it, causing another injury.

As well as helping you reduce and recover from the pain and swelling of the injury in the early days, your Physiotherapist is trained to identify which issues are likely to affect you in the future and assist you with a personalised rehabilitation programme to ensure your ankle is as strong and stable as possible to prevent future injuries.

None of the information in this newsletter is a replacement for proper medical advice. Always see a medical professional for advice on your individual condition.


Physio Direct is ACC accredited so you can come to us directly to get an injury registered with ACC without having to go to your GP first, followed by an assessment, treatment and follow up review, to ensure correct care and recovery. Physio Direct can also refer you directly for Cortisone injections, X-Rays and Ultra Sound Scans and on to Specialists if needed.

Please feel free to print out these news letters and put the in the staffroom and hand them out to your team. Understanding more about injuries, gives people the power to prevent an injury from occurring in the first place. Prevention and education is the key!