The autumn and winter months carry with them an overwhelming concern for head injuries. Sports such as football, skiing and snowboarding make concussions and the like infinitely more common, and so we devote much of our time to preventing and treating them. As a result, we are prepared for our child or athletic spouse or ourselves to smack our heads into . . . anything. But what we are not prepared for are the injuries that affect our lower body – the ankle sprains.
Sprains are a much more common occurrence than readily thought. In soccer players, they account for 17 percent of all injuries, outpacing all others types including head injuries. However few, particularly the younger athletes, know how to prevent and treat sprains. Many experience multiple sprains in one season, rarely allowing for their first injury to heal before another occurs. This makes an affliction that normally takes care of itself with proper home treatment difficult to mend and increases the potential need for surgery.
If you or someone you know experiences a sprain, make sure that it is cared for properly. For the first 24 – 36 hours, wear a protective brace and compression wrap (ACE bandage). Apply ice every one or two hours for about half an hour at a time. Allow your ankle time to rest (running on it right after you’ve sprained it, no matter how mild, is not a good idea), and elevate your foot. For a few hours each day, raise it above your heart level. The injury should heal, putting you back at peak performance within a few weeks. If that doesn’t happen or if you neglect to treat it at the outset, you’ll have to see your doctor and consider more in depth treatments.
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