Ankle Sprains in Lacrosse Players: The Complete Guide

Marc I. Harwood, MD June 30th, 2017

Everything you need to know about one of America’s most common injuries

You’re running down the field cradling the ball when you pivot around a defender and your ankle rolls. The pain is instant, but you’re determined to stay in the game. While many athletes write off this kind of injury as a minor inconvenience, the truth is that ankle sprains in lacrosse players are serious injuries which need to be treated in order to prevent long-term complications. At Rothman Orthopaedic Institute, we believe that understanding your injury is key to your recovery. To get you started, here’s a brief guide to everything you need to know about ankle sprains.

The Injury

Whether on the lacrosse field, the soccer pitch, or the sidewalk, approximately 25,000 Americans sprain their ankle each day. A sprain is the stretching or tearing of one or more ligaments--the flexible bands that hold your bones together. The ankle is a complex joint, and ankle sprains in lacrosse players can affect any of the ligaments supporting and stabilizing it. The most commonly sprained part of the ankle is the lateral ankle ligament complex, on the outside of the joint. A less common type of sprain, known as a high ankle sprain, affects the syndesmosis, which sits just above the joint and holds the tibia and fibula (the two bones of the lower leg) together.

It’s important to remember that strains and sprains are not the same things. While ankle sprains involve stretching or tearing of ligaments, strains involve stretching and tearing of muscles or tendons. Although the names sound the same, these are different types of injuries.


Ankle sprains are among the most common lacrosse injuries, but not all sprains are created equal. In addition to the distinction between common sprains and high ankle sprains, doctors classify the trauma in three grades, depending on severity.

Grade 1: This type of ankle sprain involves stretching of the ligaments, but no tearing. Symptoms include mild to moderate pain and swelling. Patients with a grade one injury will still be able to bear weight, albeit uncomfortably.

Grade 2: A lacrosse player experiencing a grade two sprain has partially torn a ligament in her or his ankle. Symptoms of this injury include moderate pain and swelling, some instability in the joint, and painful weight bearing.

Grade 3: Sprains of this type are characterized by a completely torn ligament. Grade three ankle sprains in lacrosse players cause pain, severe swelling, ankle instability, and an inability to bear weight on the joint without severe pain.


Treatments for ankle sprains in lacrosse players vary depending on the severity of the injury. More severe sprains that don’t heal on their own, especially grade three high ankle sprains may require surgery to stabilize the joint during healing.

Most ankle sprains, however, won’t require surgery. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (sometimes known as the RICE method) are important for complete healing. It’s also absolutely crucial that you have healed completely before resuming athletic activity.

Depending on the severity of your injury, the location of the sprained ligament, and the level of pain and swelling you’re experiencing, your doctor may recommend a boot, cast, or brace, and you may need to use crutches. She or he may also prescribe over-the-counter pain medications to alleviate discomfort and swelling.

After the first phase of treatment, your physician will give you instructions on what kind of exercises you can do to regain range of motion and strength in your ankle. You should only return to your usual level of activity once you have fully recovered and under doctor’s orders.


Ankle sprains in lacrosse players can be a serious injury but treated properly, they won’t keep you out of the game for long. Most minor sprains resolve within two or three weeks, and more serious sprains typically heal within six weeks to six months. By following your doctor’s instructions and taking care of your body, you can make sure not to miss a single second more than you need to with this common injury.

If you would like more information on ankle sprains in lacrosse players or to schedule an appointment, visit us here or contact us at 1-800-321-9999.

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