How many times have you said “my Max is so clumsy. He is always rolling his ankle” or “why do you keep falling over?” Your budding sporting superstar is always missing games, your dancing performer is always missing practise, or your child is missing school days often with ankle sprains. What is going on??
It is important to remind yourself of the first time the sprain happened. Let’s face it kids are kids and things happen but what occurred after the first ankle injury is critical for your child. I know this experience first-hand as I was that dad that was playing on the trampoline one moment then next thing, I’m taking my son to hospital. My son had landed on the side of this ankle and it was horrific. I’ll never forget him screaming “Daddy, please help”. Makes me feel ill just writing this! We go to hospital, he has an x-ray of his football sized ankle and the doctors come back with “there is nothing wrong”. Hmmm, sure thanks. Two days later the swelling is still huge, we go for another x-ray- still nothing showing so my wife and I push for an MRI. We get the MRI done and my son has fully torn one of his ankle ligaments, partially torn another ligament and partially fractured two bones. If we had accepted the original doctor’s diagnosis my son would have massive complications for the rest of his life. So always use your parental instincts and get a correct, definitive diagnosis. The old school approach of “walk it off” or “you’ll be right” is not the way to go as that first ankle sprain can affect your child LIFE.
Unfortunately, if your child is having repeat strains this leads to chronic ankle instability. This is caused by a loss in proprioception. Proprioception is the communication between your child brain and the muscles, ligaments and tendons. A loss of proprioception causes sudden loss of balance, poor technique during activities and a loss of stability in the ankle. For example, if your child is walking along a path and then there is a sudden change to the angle of the path. A child with good proprioception will sense this change and the brain and ankle joint quickly work together (reflex) to move to a safe position. A child with poor proprioception does not adapt and sprains the ankle (again).
The plus side it is very simple to improve proprioception in children and is important to do with children who don’t suffer from regular sprains. Read this blog to see what fun activities can help your little one.
If the initial sprain is not treated and rehabilitated correctly your child’s ankle could be on its way to post traumatic ankle osteoarthritis. This can occur to up to 50% of people who don’t seek treatment for an ankle sprain. Seeking help from a physiotherapist or pediatrist post injury is highly recommended to regain normal function. My little guy had 16 weeks in a brace, and we did daily rehabilitation. Thankfully, he has made a full recovery and is running and jumping with no issues now.
That is the beauty of children’s bodies. They adapt very quickly to what they do. It takes effort and consistency but if the rehabilitation is done your child won’t have repeat issues. This gives them the best quality of life. Seeing your child running, playing and being kid without any repercussions after a significant injury is wonderful. Trust me on that one.