All About Ankle Sprains

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Sports medicine and foot and ankle surgeon Dr. David Epstein of Tri-County Orthopedics describes ankle sprains as well as prevention tips.

Dr. Epstein: Hi, my name is Dr. David Epstein, and I specialize in both sports medicine as well as foot/ankle surgery here in Tri-County Orthopedics.

Typically, a patient who presents to the office with an ankle sprain will often have complaints of pain and swelling over the outside portion of their ankle joint. This is often a result of a twisting or an inversion mechanism of injury whereas the lateral ankle ligaments are stretched and/or partially torn.

The most common mechanism of injury for an ankle sprain is an inversion-type mechanism where the foot rotates inward relative to the ankle. This often results in a stretching or partial tearing of those ankle ligaments. This commonly occurs in athletes on the basketball court or the soccer field via a higher energy-type mechanism. This can also occur in the general population via a fall or an awkward step.

Ankle sprains are more commonly seen the in athletic patient population secondary to the high demands placed on the ankle ligaments. More commonly, athletes are participating in cutting, pivoting, and twisting-type sports, which do place a lot of demand on the lateral ankle ligaments.

Most commonly, ankle sprains are diagnosed from a patient history as well as a physical exam. Patients will often report hearing or feeling a pop in their ankle accompanied by pain and swelling on the outer aspect of their ankle joint. This is sometimes accompanied by an inability to put weight on the ankle, which may indicate a higher-severity sprain or even ankle fracture.

When you're seen in our office, we will both evaluate you from a clinical perspective as well as a radiographic perspective. Oftentimes, radiographs are needed to ensure that there is no fracture or break present in the bone.

If this is a simple ankle sprain, the diagnosis is usually made by feeling the area of the origin of the ankle ligament and seeing if there is any tenderness in this area. It's important to exclude any other diagnoses, such as broken bones or any dislocated tendons around the outer portion of your ankle joint.

Treatment options that are available for a patient with an ankle sprain typically are RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Oftentimes, the majority of ankle sprains can be treated in this manner, and most are resolved between a period of several days to several weeks, depending on the severity or grade of ankle ligament sprain.

Some ankle sprain prevention tips do include bracing or taping from your trainer. If you do have a history of ankle sprain, I do advise wearing a lace-up ankle brace or having your ankle taped for up to six months after the initial injury.

Physical therapy can play a very important role in terms of building muscle strength in the ankle in order to prevent future sprains.