Ankle sprain

What is it?

An ankle sprain is damage to the ankle ligaments, most commonly caused by a single sudden incident, such as when your foot rolls, twists or turns beyond its normal range of motion. A serious sprain may involve partial or complete tear of a ligament.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • feeling that the ankle gave way at the time of injury;
  • a pop or crack;
  • pain on weight bearing;
  • swelling; and
  • bruising.

Causes

Ankle sprains stretch the ankle ligaments beyond their normal range, or in some cases tear these ligaments. The sprain can be caused by:

  • inversion – overstretching the ligaments on the outside of the ankle when the heel or foot turns inwards; or
  • eversion - overstretching the ligaments on the inside of the ankle when the foot turns outwards.

Treatment

Treatment for uncomplicated sprains usually consists of:

  • rest;
  • keeping the weight off the ankle for the first 48 hours;
  • applying ice immediately and then for 20 minutes every couple of hours after;
  • compression with an elastic bandage; and
  • elevation of the foot.

Medical advice should be sought if:

  • There is immediate significant swelling associated with severe pain, and/or;
  • You are unable to weight-bear after 24-48 hours;
  • There was a loud crack or pop;
  • There is deformity of the ankle, not associated with swelling.

Prolonged immobilisation of the ankle IS NOT recommended, unless advised by your doctor, as this can be associated with post-injury stiffness and persistent swelling.

Rehabilitation, including range of motion exercises to the joint, and balance and strengthening exercises of the ankle, is important after this.

References

Sports Medicine Australia. Ankle injury. http://sma.org.au/resources-advice/injury-fact-sheets/ankle-injury/ (accessed Sept 2015).
Mayo Clinic. Sprained ankle. Updated Aug 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sprained-ankle/basics/definition/con-20032428 (accessed Sept 2015).
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