INTRODUCTION: Ankle sprains are extremely common and are one of the most frequently injured parts of the body. When an injury occurs in sports activities, the ankle is involved 40% of the time. And the long-term damage can be severe. A sprain is an injury whereby one or more ligaments are stretched too far, which can cause tearing. Ligaments, which are tough, fibrous bands of inelastic tissue, function to hold joints in position.

ANATOMY:  The structure typically injured in an ankle sprain is the ligament located on the front of the outside of the ankle. When the foot is turned forcibly inward, the ligament is stretched, and, if the force is sufficient, it is torn. Torn ligaments need more than a few days rest to heal properly. If you return to normal activities too quickly, without protection for the ligament injured, it may heal only partially, or in a lengthened position. The joint will no longer be held in place correctly.  Some common consequences include re-injury (easily), cartilage damage, arthritic changes, bone spurring, pain.

DIAGNOSIS: X-rays typical reveal no broken bones, but there are significant consequences to a sprain. A thorough exam remains the key to diagnosis, although ultrasound provides the doctor with valuable specifics. MRI imaging is excellent, but generally only “covered” in rare, complex cases.

TREATMENT: A grade 1 sprain is the kind that you can “walk off”. It requires no special treatment and leaves no disability. With more severe injuries, the joint should be protected from the stress of weight bearing with physical support, such as walking cast boots, wraps, or bracing. Acute inflammatory pain can be reduced with cortisone or laser therapy. Some physical therapies can speed healing. Foot orthotics are helpful in preventing re-injury. After recuperating, athletic activities can be performed with bracing.

CONCLUSION: Other structures potentially damaged, like the cartilage which can become displaced, a fracture can occur (not common). Seeing a physician with special expertise in this problem, such as Dr. McLean is a critical step. Don’t let a sprain limit your activities. See Dr. McLean at Superior Foot and Ankle Centers for an accurate diagnosis, and the most effective treatments.

                By Dr. Conway McLean, DABFAS, FAPWHc