Now that spring has sprung and summer is near, we all are going to be much more active in both work and play. This means our chances of orthopeadic injuries will be on the rise. An ankle sprain is a very common injury and one of the most prominent sports injuries that occurs when ligaments that connect the bones in the foot, ankle, and lower leg are stretched or torn. There is usually immediate pain and swelling associated with this injury.
There are 3 severities of ankle sprains; Grade 1, Grade 2, and Grade 3.
- Grade 1 sprain: Slight stretching and some damage to the fibers (fibrils) of the ligament.
- Grade 2 sprain: Partial tearing of the ligament. If the ankle joint is examined and moved in certain ways, abnormal looseness (laxity) of the ankle joint occurs.
- Grade 3 sprain: Complete tear of the ligament. If the examiner pulls or pushes on the ankle joint in certain movements, gross instability occurs.
The R.I.C.E. principle, Rest – Ice – Compression – Elevation, should be followed immediately after the injury. Without evaluation by a medical professional these grades cannot be easily identified merely by the amount of swelling or pain, nor can the possibility of a fracture be ruled out. A fractured ankle can have similar symptoms of even a Grade 1 or Grade 2 ankle sprain. So be sure to get it checked out.
- You heard a “popping” or “clunking” sound at the time you sprained your ankle.
- You have moderate or severe pain or severe swelling or bruising around your ankle.
- You can’t walk or put weight on your affected foot, or your ankle feels unstable.
- You have no improvement in your ankle after 1 week.
- Your swelling and bruising last more than 2 weeks.
You should see a doctor immediately if after the injury:
- Your foot or leg bends at an abnormal angle.
- You feel severe pain.
- Your foot is cool or pale or changes color.
- You feel numbness or tingling in your foot or toes that lasts after the initial injury.
- You can’t move your ankle.
Even in Grade 1 ankle sprains, early and often brief stints of physical therapy and rehabilitation will vastly improve your recovery time and your outcome. Physical Therapy will also quickly and appropriately restore the balance and stability at that ankle, reducing your chances of re-injury, because re-injury can lead to long term problems. Quick and effective identification, treatment, and rehabilitation of an ankle sprain will get you back to where you need to be quickly, and will allow you to “Stay in the Game”.