What Is an Ankle Sprain?
An ankle sprain is an injury to one or more ligaments in the ankle, usually on the outside of the ankle. Ligaments are bands of tissue—like rubber bands—that connect one bone to another and bind the joints together. In the ankle joint, ligaments provide stability by limiting side-to-side movement.
Some ankle sprains are much worse than others. The severity of an ankle sprain depends on whether the ligament is stretched, partially torn or completely torn, as well as on the number of ligaments involved. Ankle sprains are not the same as strains, which affect muscles rather than ligaments.
Sprained ankles often result from a fall, a sudden twist or a blow that forces the ankle joint out of its normal position. Ankle sprains commonly occur while participating in sports, wearing inappropriate shoes or walking or running on an uneven surface.
Sometimes ankle sprains occur because a person is born with weak ankles. Previous ankle or foot injuries can also weaken the ankle and lead to sprains.
The symptoms of ankle sprains may include:
• Pain or soreness
• Difficulty walking
• Stiffness in the joint
Ankle fractures are common injuries most often caused by the ankle rolling inward or outward. Many people mistake an ankle fracture for an ankle sprain, but they are quite different and therefore require an accurate and early diagnosis. They sometimes occur simultaneously.
Why Prompt Medical Attention Is Needed
There are four key reasons why an ankle sprain should be promptly evaluated and treated by a foot and ankle surgeon:
• An untreated ankle sprain may lead to chronic ankle instability, a condition marked by persistent discomfort and a giving way of the ankle. Weakness in the leg may also develop.
• A more severe ankle injury may have occurred along with the sprain. This might include a serious bone fracture that, if left untreated, could lead to troubling complications.
• An ankle sprain may be accompanied by a foot injury that causes discomfort but has gone unnoticed thus far.
• Rehabilitation of a sprained ankle needs to begin right away. If rehabilitation is delayed, the injury may be less likely to heal properly.
In evaluating your injury, the foot and ankle surgeon will obtain a thorough history of your symptoms and examine your foot. X-rays or other advanced imaging studies may be ordered to help determine the severity of the injury.