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.

Last Reviewed: 25 September 2015
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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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