An ankle sprain injury usually occurs when the foot is forcibly twisted, inverted or turned outside its normal range of motion that happens in sports that involve a lot of running and changing of direction or by simply stepping on an uneven surface. This stress on the ligaments of the ankle forces it to overstretch and in more severe cases, partially or completely tear off. A ligament is a fibrous connective tissue that connects a bone to another bone that allows stability by preventing unnecessary movement. Thus,when a person gets an ankle sprain, his balance will be affected and he will be unable to put weight on the injured side.
The most common area of injury is on the outer side of the ankle or the lateral complex, which is composed of 3 ligaments – the anterior talofibular, calcaneofibular and the posterior talofibular ligaments. The severity of the ankle sprain usually depends on the extent of injury to these ligaments.
An ankle sprain is a very common injury that afflicts both athletes and non-athletes alike. In fact, in the United States of America alone, it is estimated that 23,000 people get this injury every day. However, participation in sports still poses the highest risk of getting an ankle sprain. Prior ankle injury is another risk factor.
Signs and Symptoms of Ankle Sprain
An ankle sprain often presents with acute pain that is exacerbated when weight is put on while some reports of hearing a popping sound upon getting injured. Other signs and symptoms are as follows:
- Swelling, or sometimes bruising, at the site of injury
- Inability to achieve full range of motion
- Instability of the ankle that occurs when there is a complete tear of the ligament
Grading of Ankle Sprain
An ankle sprain is graded based on the extent of the injury. The grading is as follows:
- Grade 1 sprain – slightly overstretched and minor damages on the fibers of the ligament that often presents with minimal tenderness and swelling
- Grade 2 sprain – partial tearing of the ligament that presents with abnormal laxity of the ankle joint, moderate tenderness and swelling, decreased range of motion with a possibility of instability
- Grade 3 sprain – complete tearing of the ligament that present with gross instability of the ankle joint with severe tenderness and swelling
First Aid Management of Ankle Sprain
Treatment of an ankle sprain will depend on the grading of the injury. A grade 1 sprain or even some grade 2 sprain may resolve with first aid and home remedies. The following can be done:
- Rest – immobilize the injured ankle and limit the weight put on that side by using crutches if necessary
- Ice – apply ice compress over the injured area for 2 to 3 times a day for at least 10 minutes
- Compress – a compression bandage can ease the swelling
- Elevate – elevate the injured ankle above the heart while sitting or lying down
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or aspirin can help ease the pain and swelling
- Physical therapy or occupational therapy may also be recommended to restore mobility and to strengthen the ankle
For more severe injuries, such as a grade 3 sprain, a short leg cast or a cast brace may be used for several weeks to completely immobilize the ankle in order for it to heal. Surgery may also be recommended to repair the damage.
An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments found in the ankle are stretched beyond its limits producing pain, discomfort and difficulty of walking.