Background: Lateral ankle sprains are common musculoskeletal injuries.
Objectives: The objective of this study was to perform a systematic literature review of the last 10 years regarding evidence for the treatment and prevention of lateral ankle sprains.
Data source: Pubmed central, Google scholar.
Study eligibility criteria: Meta-analysis, prospective randomized trials, English language articles.
Interventions: Surgical and non-surgical treatment, immobilization versus functional treatment, different external supports, balance training for rehabilitation, balance training for prevention, braces for prevention.
Methods: A systematic search for articles about the treatment of lateral ankle sprains that were published between January 2002 and December 2012.
Results: Three meta-analysis and 19 articles reporting 16 prospective randomized trials could be identified. The main advantage of surgical ankle ligament repair is that objective instability and recurrence rate is less common when compared with non-operative treatment. Balancing the advantages and disadvantages of surgical and non-surgical treatment, we conclude that the majority of grades I, II and III lateral ankle ligament ruptures can be managed without surgery. For non-surgical treatment, long-term immobilization should be avoided. For grade III injuries, however, a short period of immobilization (max. 10 days) in a below knee cast was shown to be advantageous. After this phase, the ankle is most effectively protected against inversion by a semi-rigid ankle brace. Even grades I and II injuries are most effectively treated with a semi-rigid ankle brace. There is evidence that treatment of acute ankle sprains should be supported by a neuromuscular training. Balance training is also effective for the prevention of ankle sprains in athletes with the previous sprains. There is good evidence from high level randomized trials in the literature that the use of a brace is effective for the prevention of ankle sprains.
Conclusion: Balancing the advantages and disadvantages of surgical and non-surgical treatment, we conclude that the majority of grades I, II and III lateral ankle ligament ruptures can be managed without surgery. The indication for surgical repair should be always made on an individual basis. This systematic review supports a phase adapted non-surgical treatment of acute ankle sprains with a short-term immobilization for grade III injuries followed by a semi-rigid brace. More prospective randomized studies with a longer follow-up are needed to find out what type of non-surgical treatment has the lowest re-sprain rate.