Ankle sprains becoming more common among athletes

As athletes are drawn to more extreme sports that involve increasingly challenging terrain, the frequency of ankle injuries increases. Depending on the severity, ankle injuries can require an extended period of rehabilitation.

The ankle joint is made up of three bones — the tibia and fibula that make up the lower part of the leg and the talus that is part of the foot. A complex network of ligaments that allow the foot to bend upward and downward holds the joint together.

The principal mechanism of injury involves a forceful overpowering of the ligaments in a variety of directions. This type of injury is known as a sprain. The most common ankle injuries are the inversion, eversion and high ankle sprains.

The inversion ankle sprain is the result of suddenly turning the foot inward and damaging the ligaments on the outside of the ankle joint. An eversion sprain is the consequence of the foot turning outward and stressing the ligaments on the inside of the ankle.

A high ankle sprain is the result of injury to the ligaments that attach the tibia and fibula. It is caused by the sudden rotation of the foot outward.

The best treatment approach to an ankle sprain is the RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Reducing blood circulation to ligaments diminishes the availability of factors that aid healing.

“Sprains can take a long time to recover,” states Dr. Lauren Geaney, Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Connecticut, who specializes in foot and ankle injuries. “Ice and elevation in the early stages and early mobilization and strengthening as soon as the swelling and pain allow. Surgery is rarely needed and almost never indicated during early recovery.”

Appropriate treatment of ankle sprains can avoid having them develop into a chronic problem.

Dr. Alessi is a neurologist in Norwich and serves as an on-air contributor for ESPN. He is director of UConn NeuroSport and can be reached at

Ex-UConn, sports medicine doctor will be missed

Last week, with the sudden passing of Dr. Jeffrey Anderson, the UConn athletics family and athletes everywhere lost a compassionate physician and strong advocate for health and safety in sports. Dr. Anderson was head team physician for UConn from 1993-2014. He left that position to take on the challenges of directing student health services at UConn while serving as the impartial administrator for Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Dr. Anderson graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School, where he did his residency in Family Medicine. This provided him with a broad medical background that he decided to apply to sports medicine. He did a fellowship in Primary Care Sports Medicine (PCSM) before taking the position at UConn.

PCSM, a relatively new field thirty years ago, has continued to grow and attract many bright young physicians. Prior to the increased involvement of primary care physicians, orthopedic surgeons managed most of sports medicine.

The increasing complexities of sports performance have resulted in the expansion of the sports medicine team. Dr. Anderson saw the need before others and invited a variety of specialists to join him including this writer.

PCSM fellowships are open to physicians who have completed residencies in family medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics or internal medicine. The principal focus of these specialists is non-operative orthopedic problems and general medical conditions.

Another crucial role of the PCSM physician is preventing injury. This often involves counseling athletes and creating an effective rehabilitation program.

Knowledge of performance enhancing drugs and how they are used has become another important facet to PCSM. In many of these situations athletes are trying to gain an edge by taking supplements that unknowingly contain banned substances. These circumstances can only be avoided by education.

Dr. Anderson was masterful at treating and protecting athletes while providing an example for other physicians.

Dr. Alessi is a neurologist in Norwich and serves as an on-air contributor for ESPN. He is director of UConn NeuroSport and can be reached at