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Exercises Can Speed Up Sprain Recovery

17 June 2010

Ankle sprains are one of the most common World Cup injuries – and research at the University of Ulster has found a new way of speeding up recovery.

Dr Chris Bleakley and his team from the University’s Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Research Institute, has discovered that rather than the traditional PRICE method (protection, rest, ice, compression, elevation) carrying out some rehabilitation exercises can aid a quicker recovery.

The study on 101 adults, which is published in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal, showed that simple ankle movements were found to help minor to moderate sprains and get patients back on their feet and moving sooner than those who did nothing.

Dr Bleakley said: “One of the main problems associated with ankle sprains is that  people tend to keep their ankle stationary for too long, which can  cause further consequences,  such as calf Achilles tightness, altered movement patterns and muscle weakness.

“The study shows that if a patient carries out some rehabilitation movements on the ankle that replicates the everyday motions of the ankle, it prevents excessive immobilisation, and and aids recuperation.”

The researchers fitted participants with accelerometers to monitor their walking patterns. The analysis showed that those who took part in the rehabilitation exercises were walking more than those who did no exercises at all.

“There are over 5,000 reported incidences of ankle sprain every day in the UK and this has a significant knock-on effect to the economy, with extra costs incurred from absenteeism due to injury,” Dr Bleakley said.

“The results of the research could also signify a shift in the way patients with ankle sprains are treated, which would facilitate faster return to work and benefit the economy.”

And for those interested in the world of football, FIFA figures from the previous two World Cups show that ankle sprains were the second most common sight of injury to players during the tournaments.

In the 2002 World Cup held in South Korea and Japan, there were 25 ankle injuries, with 19 players missing at least one game because of it. And in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, 24 ankle sprains were reported with 16 players missing a game.

With an approximate average of one ankle sprain injury occurring in every three World Cup matches, the new research from the University of Ulster could have world-class footballers in the 2010 South Africa tournament back on their feet quicker than before.