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Lateral Ankle Sprain: What is it?

Do you or have you ever sprained your ankle?     

If you ever played basketball there is a high chance that you have sprained your ankle. Ankle sprains are the most common injury in basketball at all levels. Furthermore, the most common type of ankle sprain is the lateral ankle sprain, followed by high ankle sprain then medial ankle sprain. 

If you want to learn more about the differences between high and lateral ankle sprains check this video out HERE.

In this blog we will go over the basics of lateral ankle sprains, like an lateral ankle sprain 101 course.

What is Injured?

There are 3 main lateral ankle ligaments: anterior talofibular ligament, calcaneofibular ligament, and posterior tibiofibular ligament. The anterior talofibular ligament accounts for ⅔ of all lateral ankle sprains followed by the calcaneal fibular ligament.

How is it Injured?

     A lateral ankle sprain occurs in multiple ways, but the most common is when an athlete lands on another athlete’s foot. For example, when a person is coming down and landing after jumping up for a rebound. Another common way is cutting or changing directions and the foot rolls over. 

     The main mechanism of injury involves plantar flexion and inversion. In other words, the ankle will be pointing down and to the inside. Moreover, what happens is that the body weight of the athlete goes to the outside part of the ankle and increases the risk for the ankle sprain.

What are the Signs & Symptoms?

1. Pain

Typically on the outside of the ankle

2. Swelling

Immediately or after you take off your shoes

3. Ecchymosis (aka Brusing)

It is usually delayed (may appear a couple days after) and its on the outside part of the foot.

4. Tenderness

Tenderness on the outside portion of your foot especially if you point your foot towards the midline of your body, or inward.

How Long Will I Be Out For?

It depends mostly on the grade of severity of the ankle sprain. About 85% of ligament injuries are grade I or II 

Grade I

  • Ligament is Stressed & Injured; No Detected Laxity
  • Minimal to No Loss of Function
  • <5 Degrees of Motion Loss
  • <0.5cm of Swelling
  • Rapid Recovery in 1st 14 days
  • Quickest Recovery in Comparison to Other Grades: 2-6 weeks

Grade II

  • Moderate Ligament Stretch & Damage
  • Laxity Detected Compared to Other Ankle
  • Loss or Decrease in Overall Function
  • 5-10 Degrees of Motion Loss
  • 0.5-2.0cm of Swelling
  • Rapid Recovery in 1st 14 Days
  • Longer Recovery: 4-12 Weeks

Grade III


  • Complete or Near Complete Disruption of Ligament Fibers
  • Significant Laxity Detected Compared to Other Ankle
  • Severe Loss in Overall Function
  • >10 Degrees of Motion Loss
  • >2.0cm of Swelling
  • Rapid Recovery in 1st 14 Days
  • May Require Surgery if Laxity Persists
  • No Strong Evidence on Return Timetable

What are Some of the Risk Factors?

1. Previous Ankle Sprain

This is the highest risk factor there is for future ankle sprains. Studies have shown up to a 50 percent chance of re-spraining your ankle. Ultimately, the reason for the high risk factor is that the majority of people do not do their rehab. 

As a result, we created the 4 week ankle sprain p/rehab program (Check it Out) to help athletes and yourself take care of your ankle the proper way.

2. Decreased Ankle Dorsiflexion Range of Motion

3. Decreased Peroneal Strength

Decreased peroneal strength leads to decreased control of ankle inversion. In other words, the weaker the peroneal muscles are the lower the opportunity to decrease another ankle sprain or a more severe one.

4. Decreased Balance

One of the main reasons why athletes sprain their ankle is due to decreased somatosensory feedback. In other words, athletes don’t have or lose sensation in their feet which will lead to decreased proprioception, or awareness of your body in space.

5. Decreased Lateral Hip Strength:

Studies have shown decreased gluteus medius strength with associated lateral ankle sprain. The reason is that the gluteus medius helps provide lateral stabilization to decrease ankle sprains.

Want to Learn More

Check Out This Video:

$ 39
One Time Payment
  • 4-Week Program; 5 Training Days per Week
  • 100+ Detailed Step-By-Step Video Exercises
  • Bonus Week (Week 0) For Recent (<5 Days) Ankle Sprains
  • PDF Resources to Help Keep You On Track
  • Lifetime Access
$ 59
One Time Payment
  • 2 Main Phases: 1) Build the Foundation; 2) Sport Specific Training
  • 6-Week Total; 5-Training Days Per Week
  • Checkpoints & Objective Tests Throughout the Program and to Track Your Progress
  • Developed by Doctors of Physical Therapy and Backed by a Fellow-Trained Foot/Ankle Specialists
  • 150+ Exercises with Step-By-Step Video Guided Instructions


Halabchi et al. Acute ankle sprain in athletes:clinical aspects and algorithmic approach
Huang et al Effects of plyometric and balance training on neuromuscular control of recreational athletes with functional ankle instability: A randomized controlled laboratory study 
Peteresen et al Treatment of acute ankle ligament injuries: a systematic review

The Basketball Doctors - Gabriel Ignacio Physical Therapist

Dr. Gabriel Ignacio PT, DPT, OCS, TPI

The Basketball Doctors - Marco Lopez Physical Therapist

Dr. Marco Lopez PT, DPT, CSCS

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     The Basketball Doctors assume no responsibility or liability for any injury, loss, or damage incurred as a result of any use or reliance upon the information and material contained within or downloaded from its website. The Basketball Doctors are unable to provide any warranty concerning the accuracy or completeness of any information contained herein. 
     The information provided in the videos are by no means complete or exhaustive, and, therefore, does not apply to all conditions, disorders, and health-related issues. The information is not intended to be physical therapy, medicaladvice, or treatment. Any reference to or mention of any particular diagnoses or dysfunctions is intended for informational purposes only and not an attempt to diagnose your particular problems.
     Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard your doctor’s medical advice or delay in seeking it as a result of something on this site. Reliance on any information provided by The Basketball Doctors is solely at your own risk.

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