What is a sprained ankle?
Acute ankle sprain is the most common injury in sports. It occurs when the foot twists or rotates beyond its normal range of motion causing the ligaments to stretch or tear. The two ligaments on the lateral side of the ankle which are injured most often are the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) and calcaneofibular ligament (CFL). Sprains of the medial, or deltoid, ligaments occur less frequently as is the case for high ankle sprains, or syndesmosis sprains. The latter ligaments connect the tibia and fibula together where these bones play a critical in ankle function. Ankle sprains can affect just about anyone including athletes and non-athletes, men, women, children, and adults.
Ankle sprains happen most often in athletic activities, stepping on uneven surfaces, or tripping while walking. In most cases, a sprained ankle will heal itself over 3-6 weeks with conservative measures. If a sprain fails to heal as anticipated, this may indicate damage to structures other that the lateral ankle ligaments.
What are the symptoms of a sprained ankle?
The symptoms associated with a sprained ankle are typically determined by the severity of the injury. Ankle sprains are typically classified from grade 1 to grade 3, or as mild, moderate, or severe. Grade 1 sprains involve stretching of the ligaments; grade 2 sprains has a partial tear of one or two ligaments, and grade 3 sprains have a complete tear in a ligament. Symptoms will usually include pain, tenderness and swelling found in worsening degrees as the grade of injury worsens.
How is a sprained ankle diagnosed?
Our physicians will perform a complete history and examination of the ankle including x-rays. X-rays are needed to rule out a fracture of the ankle and evaluate for any bony avulsions around the ankle which occur when a ligament pulls off its bony attachment. Based on the degree of injury (pain level, overall range of motion and mobility), treatment options will be discussed. In some cases, we may order an MRI or CT scan to evaluate the damage to the ligaments and assess if any other structures were injured.