Ankle Sprains


The ankle is the joint that begins at the end of the tibia and fibula, your leg bones. The tibia joins up with the talus, a bone just below that has a dome like structure. When you hear the term sprain we are specifically talking about a ligament injury.  Ligaments are tough connective tissue that attaches one bone to another. Their function is to provide stability when a joint moves. 

When a ligament is injured it usually stretches and is called a sprain. However, ligaments can also partially and fully tear which can make a joint unstable. There are three main ligaments on the outside of the ankle and one on the inside.  The most common ligament that is injured is on the outside and when it is injured it can cause bleeding which is seen as bruising on the skin surface. 

Most ligament injuries will heal with conservative treatment: RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation).  It is important to always elevate the extremity above the  heart by laying down with the ankle propped up on two or three pillows. It may be necessary to use crutches for a few days and an ankle brace to allow the sprain to heal.

If the ankle does not appear to be getting better and the pain persists then it is necessary to seek the help of an orthopedic surgeon.  Sometimes what we think are simple ankle sprains are fractures that may need surgery.  Other times we will place the patient in an Ankle boot that has air bladders inside. This allows the patient to walk on the sprained ankle while unloading the ankle joint. 

Depending on the extent of the ankle sprain it can take anywhere from days to months to heal.  If your ankle sprain is severe enough and you see an orthopedic surgeon, you may be sent for a course of physical therapy.  Before you can get back to sports or physical activities you should have good range of motion that is pain free and weight bear without any pain. 

I am often asked whether or not an ankle brace is useful. Many professional athletes such as tennis players and soccer players wear a brace when playing to prevent sprains.  If you are prone to ankle sprains an ankle brace would be good prevention.  Also strengthening your ankle with simple ankle exercises  will lower your risk.

Bruce I. Prager, M.D.

You Might Also Enjoy...

What's New in Sports Medicine

Sports medicine is always changing as far as new treatments. What is available and used in practice today is very different from what was done 10 years ago. Progress is always moving forward with innovative treatments.

Sports Medicine Injuries

As an orthopedic surgeon who did a fellowship in sport's medicine I consider myself a sports medicine physician and specialist. Sports injuries can affect everyone or anyone who decides to go out and play.

Partial Rotator Cuff Tears

The rotator cuff is one of the most common injuries that is seen in an orthopedic practice. Most tears are partial and can be treated without surgery.

New Technique in Rotator Cuff Surgery

Rotator Cuff tears are one of the most common problems seen in the over age 40 patient with shoulder pain. This is a new technique to improve the success and strength of the repair.

Gel Injections for Knee Pain

Osteoarthritis is one of the leading causes of knee pain. It occurs when the cartilage surface of the knee starts to break down resulting in pain and disability.

Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain is one of the most common complaints I see in my practice. It can affect patients of all ages, but there are several things that help to find the source of the pain.