Sports injuries: An Ankle Sprain

By: Emily Grondines

What is an Ankle Sprain

An ankle sprain is one of the most common sports injuries. An ankle sprain refers to tearing of the ligaments of the ankle. Ligaments are tough bands of tissue that hold your bones together. Although ligaments are flexible, all it takes is a sudden twist for them to stretch too far or snap entirely. The most common ankle sprain occurs on the lateral or outside part of the ankle. This is an extremely common injury which affects many people during a wide variety of activities. It can happen in the setting of an ankle fracture (i.e. when the bones of the ankle also break). It will most likely occur in isolation.
Ankle Sprain Injury Explained

Some Causes of an Ankle Sprain

Most types of ankle sprains happen when you make a rapid shifting movement with your foot planted, such as when you play soccer or get tackled in football. Often the ankle rolls outward and the foot turns inward. This causes the ligaments on the outside of the ankle to stretch and tear. Less often, the ankle rolls inward and the foot turns outward. This damages the ligaments on the inside of the ankle.

Types of Ankle Sprains

  • Eversion: Ankle rolls too far inwards
  • Inversion: Ankle rolls too far outward
  • High ankle sprain: Too much of an external rotation

Symptoms

  • Ankle pain
  • Swelling
  • A popping sound during injury
  • Difficulty moving the ankle
  • Bruising
  • Instability of the ankle


Ankle sprains are divided into three grades. People with Grade I sprains may be able to walk without pain or a limp. But those with Grade III sprains are often in such pain that they can’t walk at all

How to Treat an Ankle Sprain

If you follow these steps, treat your ankle with care, and don't rush things you should recover within 4-6 weeks!

  • Rest the ankle. Avoid putting weight on your ankle as best you can. If the pain is severe, you may need crutches until it goes away.
  • Ice your ankle to reduce pain and swelling. Do it for 15-20 minutes every two to three hours for two days, or until the swelling is improved. After that, ice it once a day until you have no other symptoms.
  • Compress your ankle. Use an elastic bandage to keep down swelling. Start wrapping at your toes and work back towards your leg.
  • Elevate your ankle on a pillow when you’re sitting or lying down.
  • Use braces or ankle stirrups to give your ankle support.
  • Take anti-inflammatory painkillers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin will help with pain and swelling. However, these drugs have side effects, like stomach upset and an increased risk of bleeding and ulcers. They are best taken with food, and they should be used only occasionally, unless your doctor specifically says otherwise.
  • Practice stretching and strengthening exercises if your doctor recommends them.
  • Even Grade III sprains, in which the ligament is completely torn, may heal naturally. In rare cases, you might need surgery. During the operation, the surgeon might remove bits of torn ligament, bone, and cartilage. The ligament may also be repaired (sutured together), or reconstructed (replaced with a biologic material). After surgery, you may need a cast for one to two months.