A sprained ankle is a very common injury. Approximately 25,000 people experience it each day. A sprained ankle can happen to athletes and non-athletes, children and adults. It can happen when you take part in sports and physical fitness activities. It can also happen when you simply step on an uneven surface, or step down at an angle.
Ankle Sprain Symptoms & Anatomy
The ligaments of the ankle hold the ankle bones and joint in position. They protect the ankle joint from abnormal movements-especially twisting, turning, and rolling of the foot. A ligament is an elastic structure. Ligaments usually stretch within their limits, and then go back to their normal positions. When a ligament is forced to stretch beyond its normal range, a sprain occurs. A severe sprain causes actual tearing of the elastic fibers.
Ankle Sprain Grades & Treatment
The amount of force determines the severity of the sprain. A mild sprain is a Grade 1. A moderate sprain is a Grade 2. A severe strain is a Grade 3.
Most ankle sprains need only a period of protection to heal. The healing process takes about four weeks to six weeks. The doctor may tell you to incorporate motion early in the healing process to prevent stiffness. Motion may also aid in being able to sense position, location, orientation and movement of the ankle (proprioception). Even a complete ligament tear can heal without surgical repair if it is immobilized appropriately. Even if an ankle has a chronic tear, it can still be highly functional because overlying tendons help with stability and motion.
- For a Grade 1 sprain, use R.I.C.E (rest, ice, compression and elevation):
- For a Grade 2 sprain, the RICE guidelines can also be used. Allow more time for healing to occur. The doctor may also use a device to immobilize or splint the ankle.
- A Grade 3 sprain can be associated with permanent instability. Surgery is rarely needed. A short leg cast or a cast-brace may be used for two weeks to three weeks.
Ankle Sprain Complications
Surgical treatment for ankle sprains is rare. Surgery is reserved for injuries that fail to respond to nonsurgical treatment, and for persistent instability after months of rehabilitation and non-surgical treatment.
Learn more about the Foot and Ankle Center at Resurgens Orthopaedics.