MensHealth.com—April 25, 2011
By John Kennedy, M.D.
While our mothers, fathers, and coaches may have once told most of us to “suck it up” and go play after an ankle sprain, we now know that may not be the best recipe for success. While degrees of ankle sprains can vary, the steps taken thereafter should not. The “RICE” acronym—rest, ice, compress, and elevate—should be followed diligently until you can visit your physical therapist, who can then decide when and how to progress you through the range of motion and balance exercises that are so crucial in getting you (and keeping you) back on the playing field.
Typically, the concern isn’t whether the ankle ligaments will heal after a sprain—approximately 70 percent of patients will recover fine with the proper physical therapy and avoid the need for surgery. Rather, the bigger problem associated with ankle sprains is the damage that can result to the cartilage—the slippery gliding surface of the ankle joint. In fact, as many as 50 percent of patients will suffer some type of cartilage injury from the so-called “simple ankle sprain.” Damage to the articular cartilage predisposes younger, active individuals to an increased risk of arthritis in the long-term.