9 Things Parents Need to Know About Kids’ Sprained Ankles by Dr. B. Wells

Uh-oh, you think your kid has sprained his/her ankle. Now what? Sprained ankles are common injuries in kids, but it’s important to take it seriously and not just “walk it off.” Let’s go through the top 9 things parents need to know about kids’ sprained ankles below

1. Sprained ankles are really common.

Sprained ankles account for 2 million injuries a year, making it the most common sports injury around. You’re definitely not the only parent out there dealing with a kid’s sprained ankle! Remember that sprained ankles can happen while playing sports, or just by turning an ankle on an uneven surface.

2. Kids are prone to sprained ankles.

Kids are always running, jumping and falling. In young children under 6, sprained ankles aren’t common because their ligaments are stronger than their growing bones. However, at around 6, this physicality starts to change. In addition, around this age, kids start to play more sports and be more active. This means sprained ankles are more likely.

3. A cracking sound usually means it’s broken.

There are some telltale signs that a sprained ankle is actually a broken bone. In both cases, the ankle will be swollen and painful. However, for a broken bone, it’s common for your child to hear a cracking sound when the injury occurs. In addition, a broken bone changes colors or bruises quickly, as well as looks misaligned and shows broken skin. If it’s broken, your child won’t be able to walk or put weight on it. You should take your child to the emergency room if you suspect a broken bone.

4. If it’s not broken, follow the RICE formula.

A sprained ankle will typically go away within 2-3 days. During those days, you should follow the RICE formula. This formula stands for:

  • Rest: Make sure your kid keeps the weight off his/her ankle. That means no sports or horseplay. In addition, you can get a crutch for your child to use at home or school while the ankle heals.
  • Ice: Cold packs help reduce swelling by restricting blood flow to the area. Ice also reduces pain. Try applying ice for 15 minutes at a time. Be sure the ice is wrapped in a cloth – it shouldn’t ever directly touch your child’s skin.
  • Compression: You can wrap your kid’s ankle with a compression bandage you can purchase at your local pharmacy. Be sure you don’t wrap it too tightly. The ankle should be supported by not uncomfortable.
  • Elevation: Try elevating your kid’s ankle at the level of his/her heart, especially right after the injury.

5. Avoid heat and hot baths.

During the first 2-3 days of recovery, be sure to avoid heat. Your child shouldn’t be using heat packs or hot baths. That’s because heat promotes blood flow, which can increase swelling and pain. Stick to cold packs until the initial recovery period is over.

6. Try making an ankle alphabet.

After the first 2-3 days, your child should have some recovered range-of-motion. It’s a good idea to try ankle exercises to speed up healing. The best one that’s kid-friendly is making the alphabet with the sprained ankle. Your kid can trace the letters in the air to promote flexibility and strength.

7. Check that your kid’s sports shoes aren’t worn out.

Ankles injuries are sometimes a result of worn-out or low-quality gear. In particular, your kid’s sports shoes may need to be replaced. Check that the heels aren’t worn down, as well as any other gear your kid uses to play sports.

8. Send your kid to practice with a water bottle and a snack.

Staying hydrated and fueled is important to preventing injury. If your kid plays sports, make sure you send him/her with a water bottle and a snack, so that his/her muscles stay hydrated. This way, your kid will be ready to jump, kick and run without straining them!

9. A sprained ankle won’t cause long-term damage.

Don’t worry – having a sprained ankle doesn’t cause any long-term damage. Your kid will typically be back to normal within a week or two. Some kids are likely to get sprained ankles again because they have loose joints. But otherwise, your kid will recover and the ligaments won’t be permanently affected.

We hope these 9 tips will help your kid recover from a sprained ankle quickly! When in doubt, be sure to consult a doctor about your kid’s injury and go to the emergency room if you suspect the sprained ankle is a broken bone.

In addition, if your child is very active, it’s a good idea to see a chiropractor regularly. A chiropractor can make sure your child is growing in the correct alignment and resolve any problematic areas. A chiropractor can also strengthen areas and reduce pain or discomfort for your child. In general, expert chiropractic clinics – like Better Health Chiropractic in Anchorage – look at the big picture of your child’s health, including diet, exercise, vaccinations, supplements and physical therapy. This kind of holistic approach can help prevent injury in your child – whether a sprained ankle or another injury.

About Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his bachelor of science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998. He became passionate about being a chiropractor after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers. The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment. can help prevent injury in your child – whether a sprained ankle or another injury.

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