First aid for ankle injuries

Here you can learn more about what to do after an acute ankle injury.

The recommended treatment for most acute injuries is referred to as the PRICE principle. This is an acronym for protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

The goal of this treatment is to: 

  • Reduce pain and swelling 
  • Lay the foundation for a good rehabilitation 

We recommend continuing the treatment for at least 48 hours after the time of the injury. However, some of the elements are more applicable than others.

Basic principles 

PRICE is comprised of basic principles in the treatment of acute injuries, but should always be tailored to the injury type and site. Always use common sense. If a serious injury is suspected, contact emergency services. 


In this context, it means to remove the athlete from play to protect against further injury. This is especially important in the first 48 hours after the injury occurred.


The athlete should not continue with any sporting activity following an ankle injury. There should be minimal load placed on the foot or ankle in the first 24 hours. Using crutches could be a good way to offload the foot and ankle.


The aim of applying ice is to relieve pain. 20 minutes with an ice pack every other hour for a day or two has a good effect. 

Even though there are many commercial ice products available, the best solution is often a plastic bag filled with crushed ice and some water. Place a damp towel between the ice pack and skin.


Following an ankle injury, the most important thing is to apply a pressure bandage around the foot and ankle. Additional pressure can also be applied by placing a piece of foam (or rolled up tissues, etc.) on both sides of the ankle.

Applying compression minimises swelling, which in turn may decrease stiffness. Use an elastic bandage and roll it out in a herringbone pattern (see video above). Start all the way out at the toes and work your way up to just above the injured area. The bandage should be as taut as possible without cutting off blood circulation. The use of a pressure bandage should be continued for the first 2-3 days.


Swelling can be reduced further by keeping the leg elevated, preferably with the foot above heart level. This is particularly important in the first few hours, but it is best to continue to keep it elevated as much as possible for the first 24 hours. Remember that compression should be maintained around the clock to keep internal bleeding (swelling) to a minimum.