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A guide to treating kids’ ankle sprain


Kids are active creatures. Over summer and at school, it’s likely they’ll be up to all the various antics that keep themselves entertained – from running through to riding their bikes or hitting up their new Santa-delivered scooter.


And while all of this fun means they’re keeping active and on their feet, they can also lead to injuries and ankle sprains that are common among children. Each year, around 230,000 Australians see a GP for an ankle sprain or strain of varying grades. Before visiting a doctor or children's podiatrist, though, there are treatments you can administer at home or at the scene to alleviate the foot pain and also prevent further damage from occurring.


What is an ankle sprain?

This injury occurs when the ligaments in the ankle are overstretched. It can be very painful, and many patients often report that they feel like they have broken a bone.


Sprains can come around just by rolling your foot awkwardly while walking, all the way through to twisting your foot too far sideways while participating in sport or other strenuous activities.


In some cases, patients may even hear a popping or cracking sound (which usually causes the assumption of broken bones), and there will be swelling, bruising and pain to follow. Sprains also hinder your ability to walk and will often require the use of an aid – like crutches or a moon boot – to be mobile.


The different grades of ankle sprains

A simple ankle roll will strain the ligaments and cause pain for a few days, but beyond that, your child should be mobile again before they know it. This is known as a grade one ankle sprain, but grade two and three sprains can cause more complications and pain.


A grade two sprain will see a considerable proportion of the tissue torn while grade three is a complete tear of the ligament. This is also known as a high ankle sprain or syndesmosis, a common injury among professional athletes. Additionally, this level of severity usually delivers pain similar to a bone fracture and will require several weeks to recover.


How can you treat it before visiting a children's podiatrist?

The key word to remember is RICE: rest, ice, compression and elevation. Each of these steps supports healing times and recovery, so it’s essential to get your head around what’s involved in each phase:

  • Rest: Stop all movement associated with the ankle area and avoid putting any weight on it at all.
  • Ice: Apply an ice-pack for 20 minutes every three to four hours to assist with recovery, pain and the swelling.
  • Compression: A compression bandage can be purchased from any local chemist and will support the damaged tissue and reduce swelling.
  • Elevation: Elevate your child’s foot above their heart to allow gravity to reduce swelling naturally.


Post-injury treatment and why it is important

Given that the ankle is a highly used joint, the changes of re-injuring a sprain is quite high. That is why post-injury treatment and rehab is important to prevent going back to square one – or making the injury worse.


Range of motion exercises are a good place to start. There are a variety of simple exsercises that you can do to start rehab immediately. Stretching exercises can follow, the type to do will depend on your injury. Strengthening, balance and control exercises come last, but should be discussed with your physical therapist or podiatrist to ensure they dont aggrovate the injury.


Luckily, there are a variety of exercises you can initiate to help rebuild the strength back into the area and regain mobility. The first step is to speak to your children’s podiatrist and get an exercise plan to help get them back on their feet without the fear of causing future damage.