Ankle sprains are highly prevalent with high risk of recurrence. Consequently, there are a significant number of research reports examining strategies for treating and preventing acute and recurrent sprains (otherwise known as chronic ankle instability (CAI)), with a coinciding proliferation of review articles summarising these reports. The objective of this study was to provide a systematic overview of the systematic reviews evaluating treatment strategies for acute ankle sprain and CAI.
46 papers were included in this systematic review. The reviews had a mean score of 6.5/11 on the AMSTAR quality assessment tool. There was strong evidence for bracing and moderate evidence for neuromuscular training in preventing recurrence of an ankle sprain. For the combined outcomes of pain, swelling and function after an acute sprain, there was strong evidence for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and early mobilisation, with moderate evidence supporting exercise and manual therapy techniques. There was conflicting evidence regarding the efficacy of surgery and acupuncture for the treatment of acute ankle sprains. There was insufficient evidence to support the use of ultrasound in the treatment of acute ankle sprains.
For the treatment of acute ankle sprain, there is strong evidence for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and early mobilisation, with moderate evidence supporting exercise and manual therapy techniques, for pain, swelling and function. Exercise therapy and bracing are supported in the prevention of CAI.