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Ankle Sprains

What are ankle sprains?

Ankle sprains are the most common injury in sports and usually are caused by rolling or twisting the ankle. Ankle sprains most commonly affect the ligaments on the lateral or outside part of the ankle and there are different degrees of an ankle sprain.

In a mild ankle sprain, there is stretching without tearing of the ligaments. If the stress to the ligaments continues there can be partial or complete tearing of the ligaments. In a “high ankle sprain,” the injury extends from the outside of the ankle up between the two bones of the lower leg, the tibia and fibula, and injures the ligament that holds these two bones together.


What are the signs of an ankle sprain?

In a mild ankle sprain, there may be little to no swelling on the outside part of the ankle. As the severity of the sprain progresses, so does the amount of swelling and pain, and in severe ankle sprains there may be extensive bruising. There should be no deformity with an ankle sprain, and if there is a deformity, a broken bone or dislocation should be suspected. In most ankle sprains the injured person is usually able to bear weigh on that foot within a day.


When should I seek medical attention for an ankle injury?

You should seek medical attention if there is a deformity, an open wound or if you are unable to bear weight on that foot after the first day.


What is the treatment for an ankle sprain?

Initial treatment of an ankle sprain is rest, ice and elevation. Crutches are not necessary with most ankle sprains but are usually necessary for two to three weeks with high ankle sprains. An elastic wrap can be helpful in controlling the swelling in the first 24 hours. A brace can be helpful in the more severe sprains but are not necessary for mild sprains. Surgery is sometimes necessary for certain “high” ankle sprains, and for people who have chronic looseness of the ankle after an ankle sprain.

Recovery from most ankle sprains is one to three weeks, but the high ankle sprain may take up to eight weeks to recover. Formal physical therapy has been shown to speed up recovery following an ankle sprain.


Information provided by Kevin L. Fain, MD, FAAOS, board-certified orthopedic surgeon at UT Health East Texas Physicians Athens – Orthopedics. If you need treatment for an ankle injury, talk to your doctor or to make an appointment with Dr. Fain in Athens, call 903-675-9526.

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