Studies have demonstrated that ankle injuries are among the highest sports-related injuries in the U.S.—ankle sprains included. The most common ankle sprains happen when an athlete jumps and experiences a fall that twists the joint into an awkward position. Ankle sprains vary in severity, which will determine how the injury is diagnosed and treated.
At OrthoAspen, our orthopedic foot and ankle specialists routinely diagnose and treat a range of ankle sprains and related injuries. It’s always a priority to help return our patients to the active lifestyle to which they are accustomed—as safely and quickly as possible.
A sprain occurs as a result of the stretching or tearing of ligaments that connect adjacent bones and provide stability to a joint. Sports that require jumping such as basketball, volleyball, running, tennis and football are likely to produce ankle sprains. Those who participate in sports-related activities that involve a risk of running or falling on an irregular surface are also susceptible to ankle sprains.
Symptoms of ankle sprains include:
- Ankle swelling
- Tenderness, bruising and/or stiffness in the ankle
- Inability to walk or bear weight on the ankle
The severity of an ankle sprain depends on whether the ligament is stretched, partially torn or completely torn. To properly evaluate the degree of a sprain, your OrthoAspen doctor will assess how many ligaments are involved in an injury. Ankle sprains and strains can often be confused. A sprain involves the ligaments of the ankle, while an ankle strain affects the muscles of the ankle.
To definitively determine the presence of an ankle sprain, your OrthoAspen physician will go over your medical history prior to conducting a physical examination of the ankle and injury site. An X-ray of your ankle may be needed to rule out a fracture.
Whenever possible, our OrthoAspen physicians attempt to treat ankle sprains by utilizing conservative treatment methods. The most common treatment recommended for ankle sprains is rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE):
The injured ankle should not be moved, in part to help reduce pain and prevent further damage. Crutches may be ordered to help while walking.
An ice-pack should be applied over the injured area up to three days after the injury. You can use a cold pack or crushed ice wrapped in a towel. Never place ice directly over the skin. Ice packs help reduce swelling and relieve pain.
Compression of the injured area using an elastic wrap helps to reduce swelling and bruising.
Place the injured ankle above the heart level to reduce swelling for at least two to three hours per day.
Your doctor may also use a brace or splint to reduce motion of the ankle. Anti-inflammatory pain medications may be prescribed to help reduce pain and control inflammation.
During recovery, rehabilitation exercises are recommended to strengthen and improve range of motion in the foot. A brace or wrap may be recommended to support and protect the ankle during sports activities.
Pivoting and twisting movements should be avoided for at least two to three weeks. To prevent further sprains or re-injury, a semi-rigid ankle brace is recommended for use during exercise, in addition to special wraps and high-top lace shoes.
At OrthoAspen, our foot and ankle specialists will do everything possible to help ensure a safe and rapid recovery.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation, or call us at 970-544-1289.