Did you hurt your ankle during Turkey Day family football fun?


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It's the day after Thanksgiving. Did you get to play some touch football? For many American families, it's a great pastime and part of the annual Thanksgiving Day tradition. And while most games end with everyone enjoying their turkey dinner, more than 25,000 people across the country will wake up on Black Friday with a serious ankle injury.

It's one of the most common joint injuries, with more than 3 million occurring annually. But many people perceive ankle sprains to be non-serious injuries that can be treated at home with rest and ice. According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS), however, not seeking proper treatment can have serious long-term effects on a person's return to functionality and increase the likelihood of a future serious sprain. In fact, it's estimated 40% of people with ankle sprains will develop long-term joint issues. For this reason, ACFAS warns people there is no such thing as "just a simple sprain."

"The severity of an ankle sprain depends on whether the ligament is stretched, partially torn, or completely torn, as well as the number of ligaments involved," says Gregory Catalano, DPM, FACFAS, a Massachusetts foot and ankle surgeon and Fellow member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. "While the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation) combined with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, will minimize swelling and pain, we find most patients do not give themselves enough time to rehabilitate and heal."

ACFAS recommends patients limit walking and exercise for two weeks following an ankle sprain. People should also monitor for the indicators of a more serious sprain that would require treatment from a foot and ankle surgeon, including:

  • redness, swelling or pain in other regions of the leg, which can be a sign of a blood clot,
  • weight on the affected foot continues to be painful with the inability to walk more than a few steps without pain,
  • five to seven days passing with no improvement to the ankle,
  • swelling or bruising lasting more than two weeks,
  • an inability to bear weight, a deformity or severe mid-foot swelling below the ankle.

An untreated ankle sprain may lead to chronic ankle instability, a condition marked by persistent discomfort and the 'giving way' of the ankle. Even for mild sprains, a foot and ankle surgeon may suggest early physical therapy, including prescribed exercises to promote healing and increase range of motion.

For more information on ankle sprains or other foot and ankle health information or to find a foot and ankle surgeon near you, visit FootHealthFacts.org.