Injury to the ankle is one of the most common injuries encountered in the United States. An
estimated one million people seek medical care for ankle injuries each year, and approximately
75% of these injuries are ankle sprains. Medical literature documents that up to 40% of ankle
sprains may result in long-term injury.
Ankle Sprains and Associated Symptoms
A sprain of any joint involves injury to the soft tissues—the ligaments and other supportive tissues
that stabilize the joint. Ankle sprains involve injury to the supportive ligaments, usually the ones
on the outside of the joint. Typical signs and symptoms of acute ankle sprains include immediate
pain associated with forceful twisting or rolling of the foot, swelling, bruising, and often the inability
to bear weight on the injured foot.
While a sprain is technically just injury to the supportive ligaments around the ankle, many other
associated injuries may occur simultaneously. These include broken bones, injured or ruptured
tendons, or damage to the cartilage inside the ankle joint. It is often difficult or impossible to know
if these injuries have happened, since even an isolated sprain can be quite painful. Even an
experienced physician may have to rely on x-rays to differentiate a sprain from a broken ankle.
Prompt medical attention by a physician is essential for proper initial treatment. This is the best
way to avoid long-term ankle problems.
Immediate Treatment of Ankle Sprains
After proper initial medical evaluation has determined that an isolated sprain has occurred, then
immediate treatment using the R.I.C.E. guidelines is essential.
Rest the injured ankle by using crutches to avoid bearing weight
Ice the ankle to minimize swelling
Compress the area with an elastic bandage, also to minimize swelling
Elevate the injured leg above the level of the heart
Weight bearing on the injured ankle may resume once it is not too painful to do so. Use crutches
for the first few days as needed. If the pain is severe, a