sprains are common injuries that occur when ligaments are stretched
or torn. The ankle sprain is the most common athletic injury.
Nearly 85% of ankle sprains occur laterally, or on the outside
of ankle joints. Sprains on the inside ligaments are less common.
sprains occur when participating in sports, or by twisting the
ankle when walking on an uneven surface. Some individuals, due
to their bone structure or foot type, are more prone to ankle
The ankle joint is made up of three bones. The bones are called
the tibia, fibula, and talus. These bones form a socket in which
the ankle joint moves. The tibia, fibula and talus are connected
to each other by ligaments. When an ankle is sprained, a ligament
is either stretched, partially torn or completely torn.
Ankle sprain symptoms vary depending on severity. Often, the ankle
is tender, swollen and discolored. The ankle can be quite painful
to touch. Walking is usually hampered and may become difficult
depending on the severity of the sprain. A feeling of instability
may occur, especially in severe ankle sprains when ligaments are
torn. Ankle sprains are classified by "types" and range from mild
to moderate to severe. Classifying ankle sprains helps the physician
diagnose the specific structures involved in the injury. This
also helps determine appropriate treatment plans for each type
of ankle sprain. Type I ankle sprain, the least severe, occurs
when ligament fibers have been stretched or slightly torn. Type
II sprain occurs when some of these fibers or ligaments are completely
torn. Type III, the most severe, occurs when the entire ligament
is torn and there is significant instability of the ankle joint.
of the ankle bone or outside the foot bone may be present after
any type of ankle sprain. Fractures require immediate diagnosis
and attention for appropriate treatment. Therefore, x-rays are
required to evaluate all sprains. Occasionally, more sophisticated
testing is necessary to examine soft tissue injuries. For example,
computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
give detailed views of the bone and soft tissue structures around
the ankle joint. Once the diagnosis is made, the podiatric surgeon
recommends appropriate therapy.
for Ankle Sprains
Initial treatment includes rest, ice, compression and elevation
(RICE). The "RICE" method promotes healing, decreases pain, and
reduces swelling around the ankle joint. In more severe cases,
nonweightbearing activities are encouraged and crutches may be
recommended. Compression may be achieved with an elastic bandage,
splint, short leg cast or brace, depending on severity. Compression
eliminates motion around the ankle joint.
ability to walk or participate in other weightbearing activities
during the healing process depends on the severity or type of
ankle sprain. This is determined by your doctor once the diagnosis
is made. Most ankle sprains heal in three to eight weeks. In more
severe cases, ligaments may require more healing time to promote
ankle stability. Repeated ankle sprains may cause chronic instability,
interfering with walking or sports activities. In this case, the
physician may recommend a surgical procedure to tighten or create
new ligaments around the ankle joint to re-establish stability
of the ankle joint.
treatment of many foot and ankle problems often promotes pain
relief. For example, ankle strengthening exercises following the
injury help prevent recurrence of injury. Most of these exercises
can be done at home after appropriate instruction. Ankle supports
and braces or taping around the ankle joint is especially helpful
for individuals participating in sports.
for Ankle Fractures
If the fracture is stable (without damage to the ligament or the
ankle joint), it can be treated with a leg cast or brace. Initially,
a long leg cast may be applied, which can later be replaced by
a short walking cast. It takes at least six weeks for a broken
ankle to heal, and it may be several months before you can return
to sports at your previous competitive level. Your physician will
probably schedule additional X-rays while the bones heal, to make
sure that changes or pressures on the ankle donít cause the bones
the ligaments are also torn, or if the fracture created a loose
fragment of bone that could irritate the joint, surgery may be
required to "fix" the bones together so they will heal properly.
The surgeon may use a plate, screws, staples or tension bands
to hold the bones in place. Usually, there are few complications,
although there is a higher risk among diabetic patients Afterwards,
the surgeon will prescribe a program of rehabilitation and strengthening.
Range of motion exercises are important, but keeping weight off
the ankle is just as important.
Chicago Foot Health Centers,
we have doctors who specialize in sports-related injuries of the
foot and ankle.