Ankle Sprain

Definition

An ankle sprain is a partial or complete tear of the ligaments that support the ankle. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that cross joints and connect bones to each other.
Sprained Ankle
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Causes

Ankle sprains may be caused by:
  • Falling
  • Sudden twisting of the ankle, such as:
    • Stepping on an uneven surface or in a hole
    • Taking an awkward step when running, jumping, or stepping up or down
    • Having your ankle roll over when playing sports or exercising—called inversion of the foot

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of getting an ankle sprain include:
  • Playing sports, especially with the wrong type of shoe
  • Walking on uneven surfaces
  • Weak ankles from a previous sprain
  • Having:
    • Poor coordination
    • Poor balance
    • Poor muscle strength and tight ligaments
    • Loose joints
  • Certain footwear, such as high heels

Symptoms

Symptoms of an ankle sprain may include:
  • Pain, swelling, and bruising around the ankle
  • Worsening of pain when walking, standing, pressing on the sore area, or moving the ankle inward
  • An inability to move the ankle joint without pain
  • A popping or tearing sound at the time of the injury

Diagnosis

An ankle sprain may not require a visit to the doctor. However, you should call your doctor if you have any of the following:
  • Inability to move the ankle without significant pain
  • Inability to put any weight on that foot
  • Significant swelling or bruising
  • Pain over a bony part of your foot or ankle
  • Pain that interferes significantly with walking
  • Pain not relieved by ice, pain relief medication, and elevation
  • Numbness in the leg, foot, or ankle
  • Pain that does not improve in 5-7 days
  • Uncertainty about the severity of the injury
  • Uncertainty about how to care for this injury
You will be asked about your symptoms and how your injury occurred. An examination of your ankle will be done to assess the injury. Images may be taken of your ankle. This can be done with x-rays. If additional details are needed, other images may be done, such as a CT scan or an MRI scan. Ankle sprains are graded according to the damage to the ligaments. The more ligaments involved, the more severe the injury.

Grade 1

  • Some minor tearing of ligament tissue
  • Ankle remains stable

Grade 2

  • Partial tearing of ligament tissue
  • Mild instability of the joint
  • Usually involves damage to 2 ankle ligaments

Grade 3

  • Complete tearing of 2 or 3 of the ligaments
  • Significant instability of the joint

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