First Aid For Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains are the most common injury suffered in the sport of basketball. Most athletes want to “walk off” their sprain and continue playing. Following the PRICE acronym for care is the best method for returning an athlete to play.

P- Protect injured ligaments immediately so they can begin to heal. Use an ankle stirrup, brace or crutches to aid in the protection as needed. Use pain as your guide. Walking with the aid of a brace or crutches is an important part of the healing process. If the sprain is mild get up and on it after 24 hours.

R- Rest and discontinue playing so the sprained ankle can be evaluated. By resting and treating the ankle, a complete return to activity may be quicker than if an athlete attempts to “play through” the injury. The amount of time needed to rest will vary on the severity of the injury. Time lines are typically a few days to several weeks. Resting an ankle does not mean discontinue exercising. There are many alternative workout routines for athletes to keep themselves in top form. Rehabilitation exercises will begin within 24 hours.

I- Ice should be immediately applied in whatever form is available to you. The most common methods are ice cubes in a zip lock bag, commercial cold packs that are put in the freezer or cold water with ice in a tub to soak the sprained ankle. Ice should be applied for 20 minutes every 2 hours. If the pressure of an ice bag hurts the newly injured ankle, try wrapping a wet ace bandage around the ankle once before applying the ice bag. Secondly, add water to the ice bag to form a cushion around the sharp ice cubes. Most training rooms have crushed ice machines for this exact reason! In the winter, snow also works very well.

C- Compression is provided by applying an ace bandage to the ankle. It should be used with the ice bag during the cold treatment and then reapplied after. If the materials are available cut a horseshoe shape out of felt or foam and fit it under the ankle bone. Wrap the ace bandage starting at the toes around the ankle ending above the ankle on the leg. If the ankle begins to throb try loosening the wrap.

E- Elevation is very important for decreasing swelling. Raise the ankle above the heart by propping it on pillows or against the wall. Even at rest the ankle could become swollen if it is kept below the heart. If possible prop the ankle on a chair while you sit at school or work.

Coming soon is Part 3, rehabilitation exercises for ankle sprains. If you have specific questions about caring for sprained ankles email them to me at