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Ankle Sprains and Fractures

What is an ankle sprain?

An ankle sprain is an injury to one or more ligaments in the ankle, usually on the outside of the ankle. Ligaments are bands of tissue—like rubber bands—that connect one bone to another and bind the joints together. In the ankle joint, ligaments provide stability by limiting side-to-side movement. Some ankle sprains are much worse than others. The severity of an ankle sprain depends on whether the ligament is stretched, partially torn, or completely torn, as well as on the number of ligaments involved. Ankle sprains are not the same as strains, which affect muscles rather than ligaments.


What causes a sprained ankle?

Sprained ankles often result from a fall, a sudden twist, or a blow that forces the ankle joint out of its normal position. Ankle sprains commonly occur while participating in sports, wearing inappropriate shoes, or walking or running on an uneven surface. Sometimes ankle sprains occur because of weak ankles, a condition that some people are born with. Previous ankle or foot injuries can also weaken the ankle and lead to sprains.


Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of ankle sprains may include:

  • Pain or soreness
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Difficulty walking
  • Stiffness in the joint


These symptoms may vary in intensity, depending on the severity of the sprain. Sometimes pain and swelling are absent in people with previous ankle sprains—instead, they may simply feel the ankle is wobbly and unsteady when they walk. Even if you don’t have pain or swelling with a sprained ankle, treatment is crucial. Any ankle sprain—whether it’s your first or your fifth—requires prompt medical attention. If you think you’ve sprained your ankle, contact Dr. Crosby for an appointment as soon as possible. In the meantime, immediately begin using the “R.I.C.E.” method—Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation—to help reduce swelling, pain, and further injury.


Ankle Fracture

What is an ankle fracture?

A fracture is a partial or complete break in a bone. In the ankle, fractures can range from the less serious avulsion injuries (small pieces of bone that have been pulled off) to severe shattering-type breaks of the tibia, fibula or both. Ankle fractures are common injuries that are most often caused by the ankle rolling inward or outward. Many people mistake an ankle fracture for an ankle sprain, but they are quite different and therefore require an accurate and early diagnosis. Both can occur simultaneously.


Signs and Symptoms

An ankle fracture is accompanied by one or all of these signs and symptoms:

  • Pain at the site of the fracture, which in some cases can extend from the foot to the knee.
  • Significant swelling, which may occur along the length of the leg or may be more localized.
  • Blisters may occur over the fracture site. These should be promptly treated by your podiatrist.
  • Bruising, which develops soon after the injury.
  • Inability to walk—however, it is possible to walk with less severe breaks, so never rely on walking as a test of whether a bone has been fractured.
  • Change in the appearance of the ankle so that it differs from the other ankle.
  • Bone protruding through the skin—a sign that immediate care is needed! Fractures that pierce the skin require urgent attention because they can lead to severe infection and prolonged recovery.


What to Do

Following an ankle injury it is important to have the ankle evaluated by a podiatrist for proper diagnosis and treatment. If you are unable to do so right away, go to the emergency room and then follow up with Dr. Crosby as soon as possible for a more thorough assessment.


Until you are able to be examined by a doctor, the “R.I.C.E.” method should be followed. This involves:

  • Rest. It is crucial to stay off the injured foot, since walking can cause further damage.
  • Ice. To reduce swelling and pain, apply a bag of ice over a thin towel to the affected area for 20 minutes of each waking hour. Do not put ice directly against the skin.
  • Compression. Wrap the ankle in an elastic bandage or wear a compression stocking to prevent further swelling.
  • Elevation. Keep the foot elevated to reduce the swelling. It should be even with or slightly above the hip level.


Courtesy of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons

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