Grade 1 Ankle Sprain: How Soon Can I Play Sports?

Grade 1 Ankle Sprain: How Soon Can I Play Sports?

Whether you’re part of an amateur or professional team, exercise to stay in shape or are otherwise highly active, getting injuries are common. According to statistics from the National Safety Council (NSC) as recently as 2021, more people get injured from exercise equipment and bicycling than they do from sports like basketball and football, though even those activities damaged over 200,000 people. Skateboarding, all terrain vehicles (ATVs), scooters, and mopeds also rank high on activities that cause injury.

Any one of these forms of physical activity, or other basic functions during the day can sprain your ankle, a problem common enough that 25,000 people suffer from it daily and over a million people go to the emergency room to get it treated annually. This problem can affect anyone, and how long it takes to heal depends on the extent of the damage. Let’s look at the healing time for the mildest strains by examining the common causes of ankle sprain, defining what the mildest injury is, and looking at how long it takes to recover.

If you live in the Houston, or Spring, Texas, area and you’re struggling with an ankle sprain or other joints problems Drs. Billy Cheong, Kesia Broome, Elias Madrid, Tabotha Green, Francis Jopanda, and the team at Elite Spine and Health Center can help.

Common causes of sprained ankles

Your ankle is the joint where several bones, muscles and ligaments meet, including the tibia, fibula, talus, and calcaneus bones, as well as the medial, lateral, and syndesmotic ligaments, and numerous muscles and nerves. Damage in this area results from events that force the ankle out of its normal position, either through rolling, twisting, awkwardly landing or walking or running on uneven surfaces.

Any of these can cause muscles, ligaments and bones in the joint pain and discomfort, leading to tears, swelling, and inflammation. This leads to symptoms like bruising, tenderness, pain, stiffness, discoloration, and being unable to put weight on the ankle.

Defining a grade 1 ankle sprain

The type of sprain depends on the direction of the roll or twists, which can lead to an inversion or eversion sprain (when the ankle moves inward or outward while on your feet. Plantar flexion (the movement of the top of your foot pointing away from your leg) can also play a role in the type or severity of an ankle sprain. 

A stretching or small tear in either the syndesmotic, medial or lateral ligaments is classified as a grade 1 ankle sprain, and is the mildest of the injuries. This generally results in soreness, and swelling, and is more likely just from being overstretched as opposed to torn.

Recovery timeline

The healing process for any ankle injury consists of relieving pain, bringing down swelling and protecting the joint from further injury and with a grade 1 it’s no different. The RICE regimen (rest, ice, compression, elevation) is a good standard to go by when home managing your injury. Full recovery means achieving normal strength and motion to your ankle, and works like this:

First 72 hours

Functional treatment is working on getting ankle function restored as soon as possible, and starts with the RICE regimen on the first day, with a mild range of motion exercises after the swelling and bruising has gone down (within 48-72 hours). 

Within 14 days

In the first two weeks, the idea is to work on specific exercises for improved range of motion, stretching, and strengthening the ankle. Flexes, ankle alphabet exercises, ankle eversion and inversion exercises, and exercise band techniques are very helpful at this phase.

In a month’s time

By this time you’ll be doing more standing exercises, including standing stretches, rises, toe stretches, and seated stretches. Within a month’s time, a mild injury should be at normal function, but if you’re still experiencing pain and other symptoms at that point, you may need to see a specialist.

The key is to not rush the process and remember that everyone progresses from an injury in their own time. A month is normal but you could take more or less time depending on your specific ankle damage, and whether or not this is a chronic problem. 

For more answers to questions or concerns about what to expect from ankle sprain recovery, make an appointment with Drs. Cheong, Broome, Madrid, Green, Jopanda, and the team at Elite Spine and Health Center today. 

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