Ankle injuries and treatment

February 28, 2012

Children and Teens, Health, Injury

Thirty million children and teens are busy gearing up for the fall athletic season. What they are not properly gearing up for, however, are sprained, strained or fractured ankles.

by Ned Amendola — 

Thirty million children and teens are busy gearing up for the fall athletic season. What they are not properly gearing up for, however, are sprained, strained or fractured ankles. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission statistics reveal that 3.5 million children and teens get hurt annually playing organized and school sports. Foot and ankle problems account for one third of all injuries.

The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) warns that children are at risk for injury when they take a break from sports training or don’t prepare enough for the season. A rapid return to participation in sports such as football, soccer and long-distance running puts considerable stress on the foot and ankle, which can significantly predispose our children to injury.

There are several factors that lead to a propensity for youth foot and ankle injury. Children’s bodies and bones are still in the development stage; therefore, their muscle control and undeveloped bones and ligaments are unstable when subjected to the rigors of competitive sports. In addition, children may be anatomically predisposed to injury due to growth plate attachment to tendons, causing stress reactions such as where the Achilles tendon attaches to the heel bone, for example.

If you suspect your child has an ankle sprain, follow the R.I.C.E. guidelines:

  • Rest the ankle by not walking on it.
  • Ice it to keep the swelling down.
  • Use compressive bandages to immobilize and support the injury.
  • Elevate the ankle above heart level for 48 hours.

Severe sprain can often mask the symptoms of a broken ankle; it is, therefore, recommended that every injury to the ankle be examined by a physician. Symptoms of a broken ankle include: immediate and severe pain, swelling, bruising, tenderness to the touch, inability to put any weight on the injured foot and deformity, particularly if there is a dislocation as well as a fracture.

Prior to beginning any sports program, children should complete a pre-participation examination by an orthopaedic surgeon to assess any predisposing factors or a pre-existing injury. If a deformity exists, children might need an adjustment in footwear or, if they have flat feet or high-arched feet, they may benefit from a shoe insert. In addition, listen to your child; if he or she starts complaining about pain, an assessment is needed to make certain a significant problem does not exist.

The AOFAS Web site, www.aofas.org, contains resources on dealing with injuries and athlete’s foot. It also offers rehabilitation and “how to” techniques, and features a surgeon referral service.

 

Ned Amendola, M.D., is a professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation at the University of Iowa College of Medicine. 800-235-4855 or www.aofas.org.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number  5, Oct/Nov 2009.

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