In a sport that routinely involves swinging large wooden sticks at each other's legs, it's hardly surprising that foot injuries are common among both amateur and professional field hockey players. However, an errant stick isn't the only thing on the field that your feet should worry about -- the naturally high-impact nature of the sport, with its frequent sprints and lunges, can take a considerable toll on the internal structures of your feet, potentially causing a number of debilitating and painful injuries.
Inversion ankle sprains are one of these common injuries, and while a sprained ankle may not sound like an enormously damaging injury, neglecting proper treatment can lead to persistent problems and even permanent loss of function in the affected foot. Sports podiatrists are well acquainted with this form of ankle sprain and can offer a number of treatments and remedies aimed at speeding healing times and getting you back on the field as soon as possible.
What are inversion ankle sprains?
A common injury in many sports, inversion ankle sprains are a particular bane for field hockey players. This particular kind of sprain occurs when the foot is allowed to rotate too far towards the outside of the foot; they are often suffered by players changing direction at speed to evade defending players or chase errant balls, but can also be caused by rough tackles or simple missteps. This over-rotation places great strain on the ligaments of the ankle, which provide both strength and stability to the ankle joint and, by extension, the foot and lower leg -- a sprain occurs when one or more of these ligaments becomes over-stretched and damaged.
What are the symptoms of inversion ankle sprains?
Inversion ankle sprains generally cause pain and swelling in the damaged ankle and can hamper the damaged ankle's ability to bear weight (this is characterised by many as a 'buckling' sensation). You may also notice stiffness in the ankle joint, as well as noticeable bruising. These symptoms are practically identical (although generally less severe) than those found in broken ankle cases, so if you have suffered from a suspected ankle sprain your first step should be having your foot examined for potential fractures.
How can inversion ankle sprains be treated?
Once a fracture has been ruled out, sports podiatrists can offer immediate treatments to reduce swelling, pain and the possibility of permanent damage. These include:
- Pain relief in the form of painkillers and ice packs. In more severe cases, your podiatrist may administer corticosteroid injections directly into the damaged ankle to reduce pain. Ultrasound therapy can also be effective.
- Reducing swelling and inflammation with the aforementioned ice packs, as well as compression bandages and braces. Your damaged ankle should also be kept elevated as much as possible.
- Immobilisation of the damaged ankle, which prevents the ligaments suffering further damage from ill-advised or accidental movements. You may be supplied with a removable immobilising boot, but more serious sprains may warrant plaster casts, which can be worn for several weeks. Night splints can prevent you damaging the ankle in your sleep.
- Physical therapy is started once the foot has healed sufficiently and is designed to prevent loss of strength and flexibility in the newly-healed ankle. You may also be asked to perform thigh and calf strengthening exercises, to reduce the functional load your ankles carry when you move.