What is an ankle sprain?

The ankle joint connects the foot with the lower leg. Three ligaments keep the ankle bones from shifting out of place, ligaments stabilize joints and help prevent excessive movement. A sprained ankle is when one of these ligaments is stretched too far or torn through rolling, twisting, of turning the ankles awkwardly. Approximately one ankle sprain occurs per 10,000 people each day and nearly half of all ankle sprains are sport-related, most commonly during basketball, football, and running.


What are the signs and symptoms?

There are three grades of ankle sprain symptoms. Grade 1: mild pain, swelling, and tenderness, usually no bruising, joint instability, or difficulty bearing weight. Grade 2: moderate pain, swelling, and tenderness, with possible bruising, mild to moderate joint instability, some loss of range of motion and function, and pain with weight bearing and walking. Grade 3: severe pain, swelling, tenderness, and bruising, considerable instability and loss of function and range of motion and the inability to bear weight or walk.


What are the causes?

  • A fall that causes your ankle to twist
  • Landing awkwardly on your foot after jumping or pivoting
  • Walking or exercising on an uneven surface
  • Another person stepping or landing on your foot during a sports activity


How is it diagnosed?

The doctor will perform a physical exam to determine which ligaments have been torn. During the exam, the doctor may move your ankle joint in various ways to check the range of motion.


How is it treated?

Treatment for a sprained ankle depends on the severity of your injury. The treatment goals are to reduce pain and swelling, promote healing of the ligament, and restore function of the ankle. In rare cases, surgery is performed when the injury doesn’t heal or the ankle remains unstable after a long period of physical therapy and rehabilitative exercise. Surgery may be performed to repair a ligament that won’t heal or reconstruct a ligament with tissue from a nearby ligament or tendon.


How can it be prevented?

Tips for preventing an ankle sprain:

  • Warm up prior to any sports activity
  • Condition the muscles for the sport
  • Choose athletic shoes specifically for your foot type
  • Replace athletic shoes when the tread wears out or the heels wear down
  • Avoid running or stepping on uneven surfaces