An ankle sprain is a partial or full tear of the strong bands of tissue that connect the ankle bones.
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Causes may be:
Sudden twisting of the ankle, such as:
- Stepping on an uneven surface or in a hole
- Taking an awkward step when running, jumping, or stepping up or down
- Rolling onto the ankle when playing sports or exercising
This problem in more common in teenagers, young adults, and people who are active in sports. Some sports that may raise the risk are basketball, football, and ice hockey.
Other things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
- A prior ankle sprain
- Limited range of motion in the ankle
- Poor balance and coordination
- Poor muscle strength
Problems may be:
- Pain, swelling, and bruising around the ankle
- Ankle weakness
- Problems putting weight on the ankle, such as when walking or standing
The doctor will ask about your symptoms, health history, and how the injury happened. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the ankle. This is enough to make the diagnosis.
Images may be taken to make sure the ankle is not broken. This can be done with:
The goal is to ease pain and improve movement. This may be done with:
- Ice and rest to ease pain and swelling
- An ankle brace to keep the ankle from moving as it heals
- Medicine to ease pain and swelling
- Exercises to stretch and strengthen the ligaments that support the ankle
The risk of an ankle sprain may be lowered by:
- Using the right techniques when playing sports
- Stretching and strengthening the ligaments that support the ankle
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Sports Med—American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Ankle sprain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/ankle-sprain. Updated April 30, 2018. Accessed March 27, 2020.
Sprained ankle. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00150. Updated February 2016. Accessed March 27, 2020.
Sprains and strains. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Sprains_Strains/default.asp. Accessed March 27, 2020.
Vuurberg G, Hoorntje A, et al. Diagnosis, treatment and prevention of ankle sprains: update of an evidence-based clinical guideline. Br J Sports Med. 2018 Aug;52(15):956.
Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS Last Updated: 3/27/2020