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I Sprained My Ankle: How Soon Can I Play My Sport Again?

I Sprained My Ankle: How Soon Can I Play My Sport Again?

It’s the moment every athlete dreads: You’re in the middle of an action you’ve done hundreds of times during a game when suddenly your ankle rolls, and you’re writhing on the ground in pain.

As your coaches help you off the field or court, one thought is running through your mind: How soon can I start playing again?

At Steven E. Nolan, our goal is to help you recover from sports injuries as quickly and safely as possible, so let’s start with this: The answer to your question about how soon you can play after a sprained ankle is, “It depends.”

Here’s what that means.

What is a sprained ankle?

An ankle sprain usually occurs when you roll, twist, or turn your ankle unusually or awkwardly. This motion stretches or tears the ligaments that stabilize your ankle and help hold your bones together. Symptoms of an ankle sprain include pain, swelling, tenderness, bruising, instability, and a restricted range of motion.

It’s a common injury, happening to 28,000 Americans every year.

Sprains are graded into various categories depending on how serious the injury is and how long the recovery period is:

How can you recover from an ankle sprain?

Treatment for an ankle sprain usually involves RICE — rest, ice, compression, and elevation. You’ll need to rest the injured ankle for a few days, depending on the severity of the injury. This may mean you need crutches to keep you from putting any weight on your foot.

Icing your ankle can help decrease the swelling, bruising, and pain. For the first few days of your injury, ice your ankle for about 20 minutes every three hours or so. Wrapping the ankle with a bandage or brace to compress it will also help reduce the swelling, as will lying down with your ankle elevated above the level of your heart.

When can you return to your sport?

Once you have passed the initial recovery period, you’ll likely also need to do a series of foot and ankle exercises and stretches to rebuild your strength — it’s crucial to restore your ankle strength to a safe level before you attempt to play again.

We help ensure your range of motion is good (you don’t want to stress other body parts with a limited range) and that your ability to balance is back to normal.

You should also make sure you’re ready to play again from a mental standpoint. If you have any hesitation or fear about returning, take your time and wait until you’re ready.

Returning to play before you have passed all of these hurdles can lead to re-injury, so Dr. Nolan must clear you before you return to sports. 

When you are cleared to play again, you should wear an ankle support brace to provide extra strength and protection.

If you have experienced a sprained ankle or other sports injury and need treatment, Steven E. Nolan is ready to help. Just call our office or request an appointment online, and we’ll do our best to have you back on the field as soon as possible!


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