Objective: To compare an accelerated intervention incorporating early therapeutic exercise after acute ankle sprains with a standard protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation intervention.
Design: Randomised controlled trial with blinded outcome assessor.
Setting: Accident and emergency department and university based sports injury clinic.
Participants: 101 patients with an acute grade 1 or 2 ankle sprain.
Interventions: Participants were randomised to an accelerated intervention with early therapeutic exercise (exercise group) or a standard protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation intervention (standard group).
Main outcome measures: The primary outcome was subjective ankle function (lower extremity functional scale). Secondary outcomes were pain at rest and on activity, swelling, and physical activity at baseline and at one, two, three, and four weeks after injury. Ankle function and rate of reinjury were assessed at 16 weeks.
Results: An overall treatment effect was in favour of the exercise group (P=0.0077); this was significant at both week 1 (baseline adjusted difference in treatment 5.28, 98.75% confidence interval 0.31 to 10.26; P=0.008) and week 2 (4.92, 0.27 to 9.57; P=0.0083). Activity level was significantly higher in the exercise group as measured by time spent walking (1.2 hours, 95% confidence interval 0.9 to 1.4 v 1.6, 1.3 to 1.9), step count (5621 steps, 95% confidence interval 4399 to 6843 v 7886, 6357 to 9416), and time spent in light intensity activity (53 minutes, 95% confidence interval 44 to 60 v 76, 58 to 95). The groups did not differ at any other time point for pain at rest, pain on activity, or swelling. The reinjury rate was 4% (two in each group).
Conclusion: An accelerated exercise protocol during the first week after ankle sprain improved ankle function; the group receiving this intervention was more active during that week than the group receiving standard care.
Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN13903946.