Ligament injuries in the feet and ankles (think sprains) are very common. In fact, 23,000 people sprain an ankle each day in the United States. From athletes to someone who just took a bad step, sprained ankles top the list of musculoskeletal injuries seen by primary care providers.
We present these statistics to illustrate that the experienced team at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center — led by Drs. Matthew Paden, Dustin Kruse, and Brett Sachs — has extensive experience with ligament injuries.
While these types of injuries can happen to anyone, our active patients are often chomping at the bit to get back into the game and want to know when that’s possible. The short answer is: It depends.
Ligament injuries in your feet and ankles
Ligaments are connective tissues that attach bone to bone, which makes the ones located in your feet and ankles critical to your overall support, stability, and mobility.
While sprained ankles are the most common ligament injuries in your feet and ankles, these areas contain many other ligaments that can succumb to damage. For example, plantar fascia problems are ligament problems, as are injuries that affect your intermetatarsal ligaments or the joint capsule of your big toe.
Getting back into the game
The location and extent of your ligament injury largely dictates when you’ll be able to resume your active lifestyle.
For example, a minor ankle sprain, which means your ligament was stretched, may need only a week or two of rest before you can get back out onto the field, track, or trail.
On the other hand, if your ligament is torn completely, you may need to lay up for several months or more.
As you can see, it’s impossible to say here what your particular recovery timeline will look like, but there are some general rules of thumb that can speed the process along.
Follow doctor’s orders
One of the first things you can do to help your injury is to follow our instructions to the letter. As sports medicine specialists, we understand the frustration of not being active. But if you push your ligament injury too early, you run the risk of developing a much larger problem that will force you into a much longer timeout.
For example, if we recommend crutches for a certain period, resist the urge to cheat in order to “test” your foot or ankle. If your ligament is still vulnerable, you can make a small tear an even bigger one by applying too much pressure early on.
Physical therapy is key
If we recommend physical therapy for your ligament injury, it’s important that you participate. Physical therapy is designed to help heal and strengthen the ligament correctly so that you can avoid re-injury.
In addition to strengthening your ligament, physical therapists pay close attention to beefing up the surrounding support systems, such as your muscles, which can help take the pressure off your ligament.
Once we give you the greenlight to return to your sport or activity of choice, we recommend that you continue to take the steps necessary to strengthen the ligaments in your feet and ankles. Agility exercises and balancing exercises are great examples of this, and we’re happy to provide you with a list.
As well, if we advise that you wear some sort of brace or use orthotics, we urge you to take these recommendations to heart so that you can avoid a future injury.
If you have more questions about rehabbing from a ligament injury, contact the podiatry experts at one of our offices in Wheat Ridge, Arvada, Granby, or Evergreen, Colorado, to set up an appointment.