Ankle sprain is a condition, characterized by usually an inversion-type twist of the ankle, which causes significant amount of injury to the ligaments of the affected area. This is one of the most common injuries of emergency department.
The resulting symptoms that occur usually due to inversion-twist of the ankle are pain, accompanied by swelling of the affected area. The fact that the affected area has undergone inflammation, but the individual can still walk, excludes all chances of occurrence of fracture. Ankle sprain is classified into 3 grades depending on the severity of the condition .
Ankle sprain occurs when the ankle undergoes an inverted twist due to sudden movement, which causes ligament tear. This may further lead to swelling and pain in the ankle, and it would get difficult for the individual to bear weight. Individuals can develop ankle sprain at any age. However, there are certain risk factors that can increase the chance of developing ankle sprain. These include :
The exact prevalence rates of ankle sprains are not known, because many cases are self treated, and therefore go unreported. With the available data, it can be estimated that about 23,000 individuals of United States per day seek medical intervention for ankle sprains . In addition, it has also been reported that, female athletes are 25% more likely to develop ankle sprains, than their male counterparts. Along with basketball players, ankle sprain is a common occurrence amongst those individuals who play soccer, football and volleyball.
Ankle sprain develops, when the ankle moves out its normal position, due to certain activities or actions. This causes the ligaments of the ankle to tear, leading to swelling and pain . Ankle sprains are classified into 3 different grades which include:
Ankle sprains which are adequately treated have an excellent prognosis. Time taken for complete recovery would majorly depend on the extent of severity of the condition. In about 36 to 85% cases of acute ankle sprain, affected individuals recovered between 2 weeks to 36 months with proper treatment .
Individuals, who participate in competitive sports, are at an increased risk of developing recurrent sprains. However, even in such cases, when the treatment is initiated with appropriate rehabilitation program, then the prognosis of the condition is extremely favorable.
The ankle affected by sprain may show the following signs and symptoms:
A thorough physical examination of the affected ankle will be carried out. Imaging studies such as X-rays will be required to rule out fractures. In addition to plain radiograph imaging, stress–view radiograph tests may also be performed, to get better insights about the ankle sprain .
MRI is seldom indicated in such cases. However, when certain unusual characteristics features are present, such as acute pain, ecchymosis or excessive swelling, then MRI can be performed. In such situations, MRI studies may reveal osteochondral lesions, which are usually not revealed on plain radiographs . CT scan is indicated in conditions of complex injuries and to determine osteochondritis dissecans.
Treatment regime for ankle sprain is designed with the major goal of pain reduction, and restoration of lost motion. While mild cases of ankle sprain can be treated at home, moderate to severe cases may require more rigorous intervention.
According to the National Institute of Health, application of ice on the affected area for at least 10 to 15 minutes is utmost necessary for reducing the swelling. This should be repeated every hour. Pain relieving medications are also administered. Thereafter, the affected ankle is supported with braces so that there is limited motion.
Individuals are also not allowed to put weight on the ankle, and rest as much as possible. In many cases, the affected area is covered with ACE bandage to restrict motion, and reduce the pain . Surgery is indicated only in cases when there is severe damage to the ligament.
The following steps can be taken to prevent occurrence of future sprains: