Ankle sprains are very common and usually take from two to six weeks to resolve, depending on the severity of the injury. I would recommend the RICE protocol, which stands for rest, ice (usually for 20 minutes twice a day), compression (an Ace-bandage wrap or ankle brace), and elevation for the next few days to get the swelling down. You can then start to test the ankle on shorter runs as your symptoms allow. Often, formal physical therapy can be a useful adjunct to help you get back on track as soon as possible.
If you have a sprain just before an event, I would recommend resting and icing prior to the event. You can also do physical therapy and strengthening exercises to help the injury heal more quickly. I would not recommend doing heavy training after a sprain, as this can lead to increased swelling and discomfort. A lace-up ankle brace worn during the race can minimize the discomfort.
To lessen the chances of injury, exercises that strengthen the peroneal tendons should be incorporated into your regimen. One such exercise is to “write” the letters of the alphabet with your foot while using a Thera-Band device to provide resistance. This will strengthen the muscles and tendons around the ankle and help prevent re-injury.
Dr. Mark Drakos is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in disorders of the foot and ankle as well as sports-related injuries. He did his undergraduate work in biomedical engineering at Harvard University and received his medical degree from SUNY Stony Brook. Dr. Drakos is the author of more than 50 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and presentations involving orthopedics. He has directly provided care for high school, collegiate, professional, and Olympic athletes.