How Long Does a Sprained Ankle Take To Heal?



“In 2012, USA Today reported that 1.35 million athletes under the age of 19 were impacted by an injury, with strains and sprains being the most common. They estimated that 450,000+ athletes suffered a strain or sprain in 2012.”

How Long Does a Sprained Ankle Take to Heal?

How long does a sprained ankle take to heal?

If you're a recreational, amateur, or a high-level athlete playing one of the many mobility sports such as basketball, soccer, football, tennis, or volleyball, chances are you've experienced a sprained ankle.

Sprained ankles are especially common when your sport of choice involves lots of jumping sprinkled with intermittent cutting, twisting, and changing of direction. In other words, if you play most any kind of sport, you are at risk for a sprained ankle.

All this movement and changing direction (with the addition of an opponent trying to slow you down added into the mix) is the classic recipe for ankle injuries.

Luckily, a sprained ankle, in general, is considered a "minor" injury, and it's a problem that should not require surgery. However, you'll definitely want to know how long it will take your sprained ankle to heal.


The Three Grades of Ankle Sprains

The Three Grades of Sprained Ankles

When we classify an ankle sprain, we use 3 categories to describe the severity of the injury, grade one being the lowest severity, and grade three being the highest.

Let's take a quick look at the varying grades of ankle sprains.

Grade One Ankle Sprain

A grade one ankle sprain involves slight stretching and some damage to the fibers (fibrils) of the ligament.

Grade one sprains will be characterized by the following symptoms:

  • A slight instability in the ankle
  • Pain in the ankle, especially when pressure is applied (when you try to walk or run)
  • Stiffness in the ankle joint

With a grade one ankle sprain, we are usually looking at 5 - 14 days to full recovery. So, plan to be resting the ankle for a week or two before getting back out there at full speed.


Grade Two Ankle Sprain

A grade two ankle sprain takes longer to heal than a grade one. Why? Because with a grade two, you've torn some of the ligaments in the ankle (partial tear). That takes longer to heal.

Characteristics of a grade two ankle sprain:

  • A higher level of instability in the ankle
  • Swelling that is moderate to severe
  • Stiffness
  • Bruising

With a grade two ankle sprain, we are usually looking at 4-6 weeks to full recovery. This is the type of ankle injury that can take you out for a good portion of the season, especially if you are a high school athlete.

Grade Three Ankle Sprain

The grade three ankle sprain involves a complete tear of the ligaments, rendering the joint nonfunctional.

Here are the symptoms of a grade three ankle sprain:

  • Significant instability in the joint
  • Major pain at the time of the injury, followed by a lack of pain after the injury
  • Severe Stiffness
  • Excessive Bruising

Recovery from a a grade three ankle sprain will take 8-12 weeks. This is the type of ankle sprain that can take a high school athlete out of the game for an entire season.

Tips To Avoid a Sprained Ankle


Tips To Avoid Ankle Sprains

Now that we know the general recovery times for ankle sprains, let's talk about some measures we can take to help prevent them.

As mentioned, an ankle sprain will generally heal without surgery, but it can wreak havoc on an athlete's career, especially when it comes to the high school athlete who plays a shortened season and might get a limited shot at securing a scholarship or advancing their chances to continue their athletic career.

Here are some tips to help you keep those ankles healthy and avoid a sprained ankle.


1. Hydrate

Avoid sprained ankles and other injuries by drinking water to stay hydrated

Consuming water is a good way to stay healthy, period. The body functions well when it is well-hydrated. Many studies have examined the link between dehydration and muscle endurance, and the overall consensus is that dehydration weakens muscle function and contributes to injury.


2. Stay in Shape

Being fit will help you avoid injuries like a sprained ankle

Having good overall cardiovascular fitness helps the body avoid injury. If you are a weekend warrior, don't push yourself too hard too fast - sloppy play leads to injuries. Like a sprained ankle, for instance! Ease into your activities until you build the requisite fitness level to play your sport of choice at proficiently.


3. Warm up & Stretch

Stretching can help you avoid injuries like a sprained ankle

Your warm up period should include a moderate stretching program. Loosen up your muscles and get the blood flowing before you start going full speed. The pros do it, and you should do it to minimize the chances of injury to the joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons.


4. Use Fresh Equipment

Your choice of footwear can help you avoid a sprained ankle

Shoes are important. Refresh your sneakers when they start to wear out-- good shoes will give you better traction and support.

If you have sensitive ankles are playing basketball, volleyball, or tennis, consider wearing high-tops and/or taping the ankles to provide extra support. Low tops are currently in vogue for basketball players, but remember that the chances sprained ankle are proven to be diminished by high-top sneakers. 


5. Stay Well -Rested

Staying well-rested can help you avoid a sprained ankle

Play hard and rest well! The body requires rest to fully recover from strenuous activity, and the avoidance of proper rest causes a negative cumulative effect when it comes to the body. A tired body faces a much higher risk of injury.

The information shared here is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for specific medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.