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Time for refresher on ankle sprains

Basketball season has begun for local high schools and college teams, with many recreational leagues and pick-up games about to get under way. No matter the level of competition, injuries will plague many of you this winter.

Basketball has the second-highest rate of injury in competitive sports. Believe it or not, it was originally conceived as a non-contact sport but has evolved into a contact activity. The most frequent injuries are ankle sprains resulting from a sudden change-of-direction or stepping on another player's foot.If you do sustain an ankle injury, returning to your game depends upon the severity of the sprain and your compliance to a rehabilitation program. Ankle sprains are classified into three grades.

The most common type of ankle sprain is grade 1 or a mild sprain. There is usually a slight stretching of the ligament. You will feel mild pain and tenderness over the sprained ligament and minor swelling. There is minimal loss of function, and you can immediately resume playing if you tape or brace your ankle. Rest, ice, compression and elevation (R.I.C.E.) reduce pain and control swelling.

A grade 2 ankle sprain involves the tearing of an ankle ligament and possible stretching of other ankle ligaments. Someone with a grade 2 sprain usually complains of a tearing sensation along with an accompanying "pop" or "snap" as the ligament gave way. Swelling and bruising are widespread, and the ankle may be too painful to walk on.

It is recommended that you see your physician who may take an x-ray. Crutches may be helpful until you can walk without a limp. It will generally take between three and 21 days to resume sports. Wear an ankle brace during activities that require running, cutting, jumping or participation on uneven surfaces.

Grade 3, or severe ankle sprains, consist of a complete tearing of several ankle ligaments. You will have severe pain and widespread swelling. The force of the injury can cause the ankle to partially dislocate and then spontaneously relocate. Immediate medical at-ten-tion is required. Usually immobilization and supervised physical therapy are required.

It may take 14-28 days, often longer, to return to sports or rigorous activities. It is recommended that an ankle brace be worn for six months to a year following the injury.