Ankle Sprain


An ankle sprain is a partial or full tear of the strong bands of tissue that connect the ankle bones.

Sprained Ankle

Nucleus factsheet image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Causes may be:

  • Falling
  • 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

Risk Factors

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:


Supportive Care

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: . Updated April 30, 2018. Accessed March 27, 2020.
Sprained ankle. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated February 2016. Accessed March 27, 2020.
Sprains and strains. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
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

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.