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Ankle Sprain


An ankle sprain is a strain, stretch, or tear of a ligament of the ankle.  The most common place to have an ankle sprain is on the outside or lateral ankle.  The most common ligament sprained is the anterior talofibular ligament. 


Ankle Sprain Causes


Generally an ankle sprain is caused by the foot rolling or twisting inward called inversion.  Jumping and pivoting sports predispose people to twisting the ankle inward.  High arched feet have heels that are turned slightly inward and makes it easier to invert the ankle and sprain the outer ankle ligaments.  A history of previous ankle sprains can make it easier to sprain an ankle again.  Each time a ligament is strained, or torn, it becomes weaker.  Weak ligaments allow excess motion at the ankle, causing de-stabilization of the ankle, and in turn more inversion motion.


Ankle Sprain Symptoms


Pain usually occurs during the time of a sprained ankle.  Pain and various degrees of bruising and swelling generally accompany an ankle sprain.  Depending on the severity of the sprain a person may or may not be able to bear weight on the ankle.




Treatment for the first 2-3 days consist of rest, ice, compression, and elevation.  Icing consists of applying ice covered in a cloth to the ankle for 20 minutes at a time every 2 hours.  Elevation of the sprained ankle should be above the level of the heart.  Compression is usually accomplished by using an ace wrap.  A walking boot is recommended for those who cannot bear weight on their foot.


Physical therapy is generally accepted for treating ankle sprains by strengthening muscles around the ankle, to better stabilize the ankle.  An ankle brace can be used to support the ankle until the leg and ankle are strong enough to be stable. 


Surgery is needed if there is cartilage damage to the ankle, or the ankle becomes chronically unstable.  Repeated sprains can become dangerous, as they predispose the ankle to fracture as the ligaments weaken with each sprain.  Surgery is often needed with ankle fractures.




Ankle sprains vary in severity.  Recovery depends on the severity of the injury, and following treatment as directed by a physician.  Recovery can last from 1 day to 5-6 weeks for severe sprains.  

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