Sprained Ankle

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A sprained ankle is the result of twisting or turning your ankle awkwardly. The result of this action can be stretching or tearing of the bands of tissues holding your ankle bones together. In particular, ankle sprains can result from “rolling” your ankle (see image to the left). This can happen when you twist your ankle so that the sole of your feet points to the center of your body (inversion). Less commonly, it can also happen if you twist the ankle with the sole pointing outwards (away from the center of your body, known as eversion). The symptoms of a sprained ankle include pain, tenderness and swelling around your ankle, among other things.  Unless the sprain is very severe, treatment will definitely include resting the ankle by keeping your weight off it as much as possible for a period. It will also include icing, compression and ankle elevation as well as other measures we explain in more detail below. In rare cases, your doctor may suggest surgery to correct the problem.

High Ankle Sprains

Another important sub category of sprains is that involving ligament damage above the ankle itself. These are known as high ankle sprains and mainly occur to athletes, especially those in contact sports like hockey.

Causes & Risk Factors

The fundamental cause of this injury is an event that forces your ankle out of its normal position and stretches, tears or completely ruptures the ligaments that are supposed to prevent this type of event.

Examples of events that may cause this to happen include:

  • Falling in a way that causes your ankle to twist because you fail to land squarely on your feet;
  • Landing in a similar way after a jump;
  • Walking or running on an uneven or rocky surface.
  • Experiencing another person stepping on your foot and causing you to “roll” your ankle as it hits the ground.

From this, the risk factors that increase the likelihood of experiencing this injury include participation in sports that require jumping or sudden directional changes while running. Examples include basketball, tennis and soccer.

Two other risk factors that are important are:

  • Having experienced a prior ankle injury. In many cases, this permanently weakens the ankle ligaments and increases the ease with which another sprain can happen;
  • Wearing foot wear that does not provide sufficient lateral stability and make rolling your ankle easier. High heeled shoes are one example of this.


To treat a sprained ankle, you will need to keep your weight off it for a period (depending on the severity of the sprain). Sit or lie down as much as possible. If you must move around, use crutches or a wheel chair to keep your weight off the ankle. An ankle brace or a walking boot can provide support to your ankle and help give its ligaments the rest they need.

In addition, you can use ice and anti inflammatory medication to ease the pain. Applying compression to your ankle in the form of an elastic wrap can provide further control of the pain and swelling. Elevating your ankle over the level of your heart will also help to prevent the accumulation of inflammation there, thus accelerating the healing process.

As a final conservative treatment option, you may need to follow some rehabilitative exercises for your ankle in order to regain its original strength and functionality.

Surgical Treatments

If the above conservative treatments do notwork, your doctor may recommend surgery to address the injury. This surgery can have one of 2 possible goals:

  • Ligament repair;
  • Ligament reconstruction.

For more information, please read this article on treating a sprained ankle.

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