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What is a Sprained Ankle?

A sprained ankle occurs when a ligament of the ankle joint is overstretched or torn, either partially or completely. An ankle sprain can be categorized as a low or high ankle sprain. A high ankle sprain is a damage to the ligament between the tibia and fibula, (the long bones of the lower leg), at the area directly above the actual ankle. Ligaments connect bone to bone and the space that they connect is a joint. The joint complex at this particular area of the body, the lower end of the legs directly above the ankle is called a syndesmosis joint. The syndesmosis ligament does allow for some motion, but not much. A high ankle sprain is a worse diagnosis and has a worse prognosis than a low ankle sprain.


A low ankle sprain is what is commonly thought of when someone thinks of a sprained ankle. This commonly occurs from a “rolled ankle.” A tear or overstretching of the ankle ligament on the outside of the foot called the anterior talofibular ligament is usually the connective tissue that is injured with a rolled ankle.

What Causes a Sprained Ankle?

The causes of a sprained ankle are anything that places an excessive amount of stress on the ankle joint forcing it into an awkward position. These include:

  • Tripping or falling causing a twisting of the ankle
  • Inadvertently stepping into a divot in the ground
  • Landing incorrectly on your foot
  • Someone or something else landing on your foot forcing it into an awkward position
  • A high ankle sprain is the result of a twisting motion of your ankle usually from high impact sports
  • Car accident
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Symptoms of a Sprained Ankle

The symptoms that a sprained ankle may cause can be mild or severe depending on the grade and location of the sprain. An accurate diagnosis is vital in order to correctly determine the type and severity of the sprain as well as determine the best treatment strategy. Diagnostic imaging such as a CT scan or MRI of the ankle may be ordered as well an x-ray to rule out a fracture of the ankle bones. This is especially important with a high ankle sprain as this injury has a high correlation of a fracture occurring along with the sprain. Other symptoms besides significant pain that you may experience include:

  • Significant swelling, erythema (reddening of skin), and warmth of the ankle joint
  • Feelings of instability and increased pain when you attempt to bear weight on the ankle
  • Bruising
  • You may develop a low-grade fever in the body’s attempt to ward off infection
If You Are Experiencing Symptoms, Schedule an Appointment Dr. Burke Orthopedics Immediately.
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How to Heal a Sprained Ankle | Sprained Ankle Treatments

The extent of treatment for a sprained ankle depends on the severity but initial measures to be taken are the same. These measures include following the RICE Protocol:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation; when elevating, lie down and raise the foot to a point above the level of the heart in order to facilitate blood flow

If severe enough of an injury, surgical intervention may be necessary to repair the sprained ligament, especially if it is completely torn.

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Disclaimer: Please note all medical information contained within this website should never be interpreted as a diagnosis or recommendation of treatment. If a diagnosis is needed, contact Dr. Burke Orthopedics for a personalized consultation. Information shared in testimonials and reviews are specific to that particular patient and may not be representative of the experience of others.