The Most Common Ankle Injuries

Ankle injuries are prevalent injuries and can happen easily to anyone at any age, regardless of physical activity level. Cases can range from minor or mild, while some can cause significant damage. Here are the most common types of ankle injuries:

Ankle Sprains

illustration of an ankle sprain

Image via Flickr by injurymap

Ankle sprains are often associated with sports accidents and injuries, with about half of all ankle sprains occurring during athletic activity. But you don’t have to be participating in an athletic movement for one to occur. Something as routine as stepping wrong down a staircase or off a curb, walking on uneven surfaces, or bumping into something on the ground can cause you to turn your ankle and result in debilitating pain.

A sprain occurs when there is damage to the ligaments in your ankle. This may happen when the ligaments are stretched or moved beyond their normal range of motion. The damage can occur in many ways, such as a microscopic tear in the fibers that cause the ligament to tear or rupture.

Inversion Ankle Sprain

For the average person, an inversion ankle sprain is the most common type of ankle injury to happen. This type of sprain can happen when you roll your ankle inward, twisting it to cause the ankle to become inverted. The lateral ligaments, the ligaments outside of your ankle, become stretched when the foot rolls inward. The stretching results in a painful injury that can take one day to several months to fully heal, depending on the severity. It’s estimated that about 80% to 90% of all ankle sprains that occur are inversion sprains.

Eversion Ankle Sprain

Opposite of the inversion sprain is the eversion ankle sprain. This occurs when your foot is twisted outward instead of inward. The eversion ankle sprain affects the more stable ligaments found on the inside of your ankle, known as the medial and deltoid ligaments. This kind of sprain accounts for about 10% to 20% of ankle sprain injuries. Often, eversion sprains are more serious injuries than inversion sprains. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few months before a full recovery is made, depending on the severity of damage to the deltoid and medial ligaments.

Syndesmotic Ankle Sprain

A syndesmotic ankle sprain, also known as a high-ankle sprain, occurs when the syndesmotic ligaments are injured. This happens higher up on the ankle, where the syndesmotic ligaments connect to the fibula and tibula. This type of sprain is caused by the foot and lower leg twisting outward, rotating externally to strain the ligament. This type of injury is common in football athletes and generally takes a few weeks to heal fully.

Fractures

An ankle fracture is a painful injury that can happen when one (or several) of the bones in the ankle joint are broken. A wide range of ankle fracture injuries can occur, ranging from smaller breaks in a single bone to more significant breaks and even breaks spanning across multiple bones at a time. The damage will likely result in a person being unable to walk on the ankle and is likely to cause significant pain.

Along with the broken bones, ankle fractures are often accompanied by injuries to the surrounding ligaments responsible for holding the ankle bones and joints in place. Depending on the type of fracture or number of bones involved, ankle surgery may be required to stabilize the bones in the ankle. If surgery is needed, it could take between three and four months for a full recovery. Complete healing will need to happen before you can have regular use of the ankle. For athletes, a full recovery may take longer before being cleared to return to athletic use.

Dislocation

An ankle dislocation is a painful injury caused by a sudden strong force that moves or flexes the ankle outside its normal range of motion. This causes significant and severe damage to the ankle. Unfortunately, this injury is often accompanied by a fracture of at least one or more ankle bones because of the force needed to dislocate the ankle. Usually, surgery with screws and plates is required to stabilize and fix the joint of the ankle, with recovery times between six to 10 weeks.

How Do You Treat Ankle Injuries?

After an ankle injury occurs, the first thing to remember is to practice RICE:

  • Rest. Rest to avoid adding to the injury and avoid putting weight on that foot.
  • Ice. The most effective icing should occur within 48 hours of the injury to reduce pain and swelling. Never leave the ice on for longer than 20 minutes at a time, and wait at least 45 minutes before icing the same spot again.
  • Compression. Use a compression wrap or elastic bandage to wrap the injured ankle to help it stay immobile and stable. Avoid wrapping too tightly, and loosen the bandage if your toes turn blue, get cold, or lose sensation.
  • Elevation. To reduce swelling and pain, elevate the injured ankle to at least the level of your heart.

You may also want to use NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin to alleviate the pain and swelling.

When Should You See a Doctor For an Ankle Injury?

The treatment of ankle injuries depends on the severity of the injury and the type of tissue damaged. For more common sprains, ice, rest, and over-the-counter pain medication may be all that is needed. However, if you are experiencing a significant amount of swelling and pain, or the swelling and pain does not subside after a few days, it’s essential to consult a doctor. A physician will help determine the type of ankle injury and the severity of the damage and may perform an X-ray to determine if any bones were fractured. Depending on the severity, surgery may be recommended.

How Can Dr. Schoene Help You?

If an ankle injury occurs, Dr. Schoene and Gurnee Podiatry & Sports Medicine Associates are here to help. We can determine the scope of the damage and the root cause of your pain and develop a treatment plan to help you fully recover. We’ll also educate you on the diagnosis and how to prevent future injuries.

We’re here for you every step of the way, including treatments, surgery, physical therapy, and recovery, to help get you back on your feet. Contact us by phone at 847-263-6073 during regular business hours. You can also request an appointment online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, using our convenient online messaging system.