Old Ankle Sprains Can Come Back to Haunt You

by | Jan 18, 2017 | Ankle Pain, Sports Injuries

Here’s a helpful New Year’s message for anyone getting back into fitness and sports – Have your ankles checked first for chronic instability caused by injuries that might not have healed properly years ago!

Many athletes who have suffered ankle sprains in their younger years could be at risk for serious damage as they age and try to stay active. It is estimated that one in four sports injuries involves the foot or ankle, and a majority of them occur from incomplete rehabilitation of earlier injuries. Pain in your ankle or foot is not a normal part of the aging process, even if you’re just now trying to get back into shape.

Persistent or recurrent swelling is a common symptom a previously-injured athlete may experience. Both amateur and professional athletes often misunderstand how serious a sprain can be, and they rush back into action without taking time to rehabilitate the injury properly. A sprain that happened years ago can leave residual weakness that isn’t noticed in normal daily activity, but subjecting the ankle to rigorous physical activity can further damage improperly-healed ligaments, and cause persistent pain and swelling. For anyone hoping to regain past athletic fitness, we recommend you have that old ankle injury checked out before becoming active again.

Some sprains are severe enough to strain or tear the peroneal tendons on the outside of the ankle. These tendon tears are an overlooked cause of lateral ankle pain. Persistent pain and tenderness after a sprain—especially if the individual felt a ‘pop’ on the outside of the ankle and couldn’t stand tiptoe—could be a warning sign the tendon is torn or split. The injury is best diagnosed with an MRI exam.

Although surgery for athletically-active patients shouldn’t be taken lightly, surgical repair of the peroneal tendons is proving to be very successful in helping athletes with serious ankle problems return to full activity. Research shows that more than 85 percent of athletes who had surgery to repair a torn peroneal tendon were able to return to full sporting activity within three months after the procedure.

Ankle twists and sprains can also damage the cartilage inside the ankle joint. Cartilage injuries to the talus—the bone at the bottom part the ankle joint—can range from a mild bruising to full-thickness cracks, and even loose fragments of bone and cartilage in the ankle joint. If not treated appropriately early on, these types of injuries can lead to arthritic changes in the ankle years later. Stiffness, pain, swelling, and creaky or catching ankle joints are often associated with ankle arthritis. Conservative care with medications, braces, or orthotics can be helpful for these symptoms, and in severe cases surgical options are available to improve function and alleviate pain.

If you are experiencing problems in your ankle, the root cause might be an old injury that hadn’t healed properly. No matter the issue, come in and see our medical specialists here at Eagle-Summit Foot & Ankle so we can assess the condition and determine an appropriate treatment plan for you. Call our Avon office at (970) 949-0500 or our Frisco Station office at (970) 668-4565 and our staff will answer any questions and help you schedule an appointment at whichever location is more convenient for you.