What is an Inversion Ankle Sprain?

An Inversion Ankle Sprain, also known as a lateral ankle sprain, is a very common injury that we see frequently in our practice. In fact, inversion ankle sprains make up approximately 85% of all ankle sprains. A lateral ankle sprain occurs when the ankle rolls inwards. Most commonly, this type of injury occurs in sports that involve single leg landing, a large amount of change in direction and unstable terrain. Many patients report landing on an opponent’s foot as the mechanism of injury. Injury may occur to one or all of the lateral ligaments depending on the severity.  

  1. The anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) 
  2. Calcaneo-fibular (CFL)  
  3. Posterior talofibular (PTFL) ligaments.  

Grades of Injury

  • Grade 1: Over stretching of the ligament/s without ligament tearing. Small amount of swelling, some tenderness and limited impact on function. Standard recovery 2-4 weeks.  
  • Grade 2: Partial tearing of one or more ligaments.  Moderate levels of swelling, pain and impact on function. Standard recovery 4-8 weeks.  
  • Grade 3: Complete tear of the ligament/s. Will present with high amounts of swelling, tenderness, instability and impact on function. Confirmed with imaging and may require a short period of immobilisation. Recovery varies significantly depending on other structural damage sustained during the injury. On average, 12 week recovery.  

Risk Factors

A common risk factor for an inversion ankle sprain is a previous ankle injury. A previous ankle sprain may reduce the strength, balance and stability of the ankle if not rehabilitated properly. This puts the ankle at higher risk of re-injury. Other risk factors include being a young female, having poor lower limb muscle strength, limited ankle range of motion and poor coordination and balance.  


The good news is, lateral ankle sprains are effectively and commonly managed by Physiotherapists! We are well equipped to help diagnose, manage and prevent ankle sprains and refer on when necessary. 

Our initial goals are to help reduce pain, swelling and restore mobility. Your physiotherapist will educate you on how to best manage your injury in the short and long term. Initial stages may include a short period of reduced weight-bearing, icing, compression/tape, elevation and the prescription of some gentle range of motion exercises.  

Treatment progression will then be individualised based on the injury and will likely include ankle stability, strength and proprioception exercises. This is vital in restoring the ankle back to pre-injury function and patient compliance is the key. Later stages of rehab will be very lifestyle or sport’s specific.  

Ankle taping 

A common myth is the theory that strapping or bracing the ankle will result in reduced strength. This is not always the case. Recent research has shown that effective rigid taping can increase the proprioception around the ankle, as well as potentially reducing the severity of injury. Ankle taping is a great way to give the ankle more stability, especially when returning to sport from an injury. There are many different taping techniques which can be used depending on what ligaments have been injured and the type of activity, so it is strongly suggested you see a physio to see what’s best for you. Bring your phone and take a video that you can refer to at home if you will be strapping yourself! 

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