Ankle Sprains

Ligaments are fibrous, elastic bands of connective tissue that stabilize the bones by attaching bone to bone. An ankle sprain is a common injury that occurs when one or more of the ankle ligaments is stretched beyond the normal range of motion. Ankle sprains are categorized by the type of motion that resulted in the injury. The most common ankle sprain is the lateral inversion sprain. A lateral inversion sprain occurs when the ankle rolls outward and the foot turns inward. It results in tearing and stretching of the ligaments on the outside of the ankle, especially the talofibular ligament. A second degree ankle sprain is called a medial eversion sprain and occurs when the ankle rolls inward and the foot turns outward, damaging the ligaments on the inner side of the ankle. A third degree ankle sprain is called a syndesmosis sprain- it is the least common and most severe type of sprain. This type of sprain occurs when the ligaments of the syndesmosis are injured as the foot rolls outward and the leg turns inward.


Symptoms of an ankle sprain vary depending on the severity of ligament damage. As sprains are ranked in three degrees, the symptoms also range in severity. A first degree ankle sprain is a slight stretching of one or more ligaments and is categorized by mild swelling, no limp and point tenderness. A second degree sprain is a partial tearing of the ligament that results in tenderness and swelling specific to the ankle. Instability to the ankle may be present. A third degree sprain is a complete ligament tear and results in severe pain, tenderness on both the inside and outside of the ankle, swelling, and an inability to put weight on the ankle. The time to recover from a sprain of this severity can be anywhere between 30-90 days or more. Treatment for an ankle sprain depends on the severity of the injury. Treatment for a first degree strain typically includes rest, ice, compression and elevation. A second degree sprain may also require the use of an ankle brace to immobilize or splint the ankle. A third degree sprain may require the use of a short leg cast or walking boot for two to three weeks. Rehabilitation is used to help decrease pain and swelling and to prevent chronic ankle problems. Surgery is not usually needed.