The Sprainful Truth: A Look at ATFL Ankle Injuries

Ah, the dreaded ankle sprain.

It’s one of the most common injuries out there, and if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you or someone you know has experienced the pain and frustration that comes with it. But don’t worry, I’m here to give you the lowdown on everything you need to know about ATFL ankle sprains.

First things first, let’s talk about the function of the ligament. The ATFL, or anterior talofibular ligament, is one of the three ligaments that help stabilise your ankle. It connects the talus bone (the bone in your ankle that connects to your heel bone) to the fibula (the bone on the outside of your lower leg). Its main job is to prevent the ankle from rolling too far outward.

Now, on to the fun stuff – how the injury occurs.

ATFL sprains typically happen when the ankle is twisted or turned in an awkward way. This can happen during sports, when you’re out for a run and step on an uneven surface, or even just walking on an uneven sidewalk. The ligament stretches or tears, and suddenly you’re in a world of hurt.

But how common is this injury?

Well, let’s just say it’s about as common as your mom telling you to wear a coat when it’s cold. Studies have shown that ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries in sports, and ATFL sprains make up the majority of those. So, if you’re an athlete or just someone who likes to stay active, it’s definitely something to be aware of.

Now, onto the part you’ve all been waiting for – rehabilitation.

The good news is that with proper treatment and rehabilitation, most ATFL sprains will heal within a few weeks (can be a few months if you’ve fallen in a big enough ditch). Ice and some rest is important within the first 24-48 hours of the initial injury although following that we want to start an active recovery. Physical therapy to assist in reducing the early onset of swelling, in addition to a phased rehabilitation. Early phases of rehab focus on returning ankle mobility and reducing swelling. Intermediate phase will focus on strengthening the affected ankle as well as balance/proprioception work. Final phase rehab focuses on the patient returning to their desired sport or activity, for example, a soccer player will focus on rapid plyometric side jumps or hopping to mimic actions that may be performed in a match.

Prognosis of the injury is usually good with proper treatment and rehabilitation, most people will be able to return to their normal activities within a few weeks. However, in some cases, if the ligament is completely torn or if the injury is not treated properly, it may take longer for the ankle to heal and the person may have a long-term weakness in the ankle.

So, there you have it – everything you need to know about ATFL ankle sprains. Just remember to take it easy, ice it up, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from a trained health professional.

Also, just watch were you’re walking, it helps!

Written by Nick Dimakis (Chiropractor)