How Long Does It Take a Sprained Ankle to Heal?

Getting injured is one of the worst parts of sports. Not only do ailments sideline progress and prevent athletes from playing at the top of their game, but they are painful and tend to have a long recovery time. Both of those are certainly true of sprained ankles.

The following guide goes over the injury and breaks down how long it takes to fully heal. That will shed more light on how to stay safe on the court, and what to do should a sprain happen at the worst time.

Understanding Sprains

Sprains are not just a pain, they are one of the most common basketball injuries. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a death sentence, either. While they are never as bad as a break, they are a serious issue that needs a good amount of rehabilitation. 

The injuries occur when structural damage, either from a forced or sudden movement to the joint, causes the ligament to stretch in an extremely severe way.

There are several types of ankle sprains, and knowing all of them is critical when looking at the proper recovery and rehabilitation timetable. Some allow players to bounce back quickly, while others take a lot of work to get someone to return to the court.

The first sprain type is grade 1, which occurs when the ankle stretches enough to cause slight fibrillary tears. That’s always accompanied by both swelling and pain, both of which will persist for the entirety of rehabilitation. Mobilization of this is a key part of recovery.

Next are grade 2 sprains. Unlike grade 1, those sprains cause a ligament rupture that can also impact the joint capsule if the impact is strong enough. Swelling and pain are both present, but it comes with hematoma and prolonged inflammation as well.

Finally, a grade 3 sprain is the most severe. Those are categorized by almost complete (or fully complete) ligament tears. They come with extremely intense pain, massive amounts of swelling, as well as laxity within the joint. 

All three are painful and unfortunate, but they do vary quite a bit in severity.

A Shifting Recovery

As there are so many different types of sprains, recovery times vary from injury to injury. Treatment tends to be the same for each, but how long it takes for them to get back to normal differs from type to type. 

With the proper rehab, a grade 1 sprain takes roughly two weeks to heal. It can be even sooner depending on how the injury occurs and the amount of weight that can be put onto it after a week passes. Still, caution should be exhibited for a few weeks after to make sure it’s strong.

In contrast, a grade 2 ankle injury takes two to five weeks to heal. Not only that, but anyone who suffers such an injury needs to keep their ankle fully immobile for the first few days following the injury. Moving or putting pressure on it too early can lead to more long-term damage.

A grade 3 sprain is the worst of the bunch, and it requires the most recovery. Most take roughly six to eight weeks, but it can be a few extra depending on the pain and severity of the initial impact. If it’s particularly bad, a grade three can even require surgery. That takes months to heal.

The Ways to Bounce Back

Ankle injuries are both common and incredibly painful for basketball players at all levels. Luckily, there are many ways to increase recovery, strength, and healing time. It’s all about taking the correct steps toward getting back on your feet.

When a player suffers a sprained ankle, and after a medical expert determines its severity, they need to immediately rest, compress, and ice the hurt area. Anti-inflammatory medicine, alongside a wrap or special boot, is typically administered as well. 

Once those first steps are done, the player must then stabilize the joint and stay off of it for a certain amount of time (depending on the grade).

After a few weeks pass, they then begin working with it through stretching and mobilization. Walking on a sprained ankle right away is never recommended, but getting up on it after a few weeks is critical in building back the hurt region.

Final Words

A sprained ankle may not be as bad as a break, but it’s still a long-lasting injury with serious repercussions. The healing process takes a few weeks, and can even go beyond that depending on the severity of the initial impact. Ankles also get weaker the more they get hurt.

That’s why athletes need to take special care of their joints. It’s not just about playing safer or being more spatially conscious on the court, it’s also important to wear the right gear, take the necessary precautions, and know when to rest up.

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