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Glass Ankles

The urban dictionary defines glass ankles as: An injury prone ankle with the structural integrity of a house of cards on a bouncy castle. Glass ankles is essentially a slang term for someone who is prone to ankle twist and sprains, a simple trip or stumble can lead to the ankle giving way, this can cause pain and difficulty walking due to the subsequent weakness, swelling and lack of mobility in the joint.

Why ‘Glass’?

Much like glass, if it is handled without care it will break. People with “glass ankles”, must be sure to be delicate on their feet and avoid rolling the ankle left of right. In Medical terminology, a glass ankle refers to an ankle instability. Usually, this is caused by a series of ankle sprains.

What is a twisted ankle?

A twisted ankle,  rolled ankle, ankle sprain/strain, or someone with a glass ankle is one of the most frequent types of injury in sport. The ankle joint, which connects the foot with the lower leg, is often injured when an unnatural twisting motion occurs often when landing awkwardly. This usually occurs when the ground is uneven or when an unusual amount of force is applied to the joint. Such injuries happen during athletic events, dismounting horses, whilst running, walking or even doing something as simple as standing up off the sofa. The ankle is a complex joint meaning that there is a variety of ligaments which can become twisted or sprained, however the most common is the one located on the outside of the ankle. This ligament is known as the ATFL (Anterior Talofibular Ligament).

What makes up the ankle joint?

The ankle joint is composed of three bones, which include the tibia, fibula, and talus. The tibia is the larger of the two bones in the lower leg, on the inside, it bares most of the body’s weight. The fibula is the smaller leg bone (on the outside of the leg). Both the tibia and fibula attach to the talus. The three bones together create the ankle joint. Tendons and ligaments cover these three bones. On the outside of the ankle you find the anterior talofibular liagament (ATFL). On the inside of the ankle is the deltoid ligament. Most ankle sprains involve the outside ligament, the ATFL.

What are the signs and symptoms of a twisted ankle?

Ankle sprains can vary in severity. Usually a sudden trauma, twisting or turning over of the ankle will happen. Pain on the outside of the ankle, swelling or bruising may be present but not always. Ankle sprains are graded 1, 2, or 3 depending on severity.

Grade 1 sprain:

Some stretching or perhaps minor tearing of the lateral ankle ligaments.
Little or no joint instability.
Mild pain.
There may be mild swelling around the bone on the outside of the ankle.
Some joint stiffness or difficulty walking or running.

Grade 2 sprain:

Moderate tearing of the ligament fibres.
Some instability of the joint.
Moderate to severe pain and difficulty walking.
Swelling and stiffness in the ankle joint.
Minor bruising may be evident.

Grade 3 sprain:

Total rupture of a ligament.
Gross instability of the joint.
Severe pain initially followed later by no pain.
Severe swelling.
Usually extensive bruising.

What treatments are available for a twisted ankle?

In order to treat a sprained ankle, rest is crucial to allow the injury chance to heal. It is important that no activity which increases pain or puts added pressure on the area is undergone to prevent further injury or increasing the healing period. Applying ice to the area is also an important aspect of recovery for any tendon injury as it will minimise any swelling and inflammation of the area. Following the PRICE method (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) when the injury first occurs and within the following 72 hours will ensure no further damage is caused to the area and prevent any further swelling of the injury which may come from resuming activity. Anti-Inflammatory medications may be taken to relive the pain of the injury and also to minimise any swelling.

One the injury is in its final stages the patient can begin to take gradual steps back to activity which can involve increase in weight bearing activity and strengthening exercises advised by a physiotherapist to keep the area strong and ensure flexibility once the patient has made a full recovery and has returned to sports. This should not be done without professional advice as a patient can run the risk of aggravating the area and increase the healing process. Within the first few months of returning to training, stretching exercises may be performed to keep the area stable and strong and can also help prevent the injury reoccurring. One of our favourite products for providing ankle stability whilst remaining active is the Aircast A60 brace, it is low profile enough that it can be worn with ordinary shoes, comfortable, yet stops any unnatural rolling movement (and if it’s good enough for Andy Murray, then it’s good enough for us).

See our full range of Ankle Support and Ankle Braces

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