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Ankle sprains are among the most common injuries in sports. A sprain can happen when the ankle rolls or the stabilization of the joints by preventing excessive movement. When a sprain happens, ligaments get stretched past their normal range, causing damage to them and compromising ankle stability.

Treatment ranges from conservative measures to surgical interventions depending on the severity of the injury. The severity of the injury depends on the level of tear as well as the number of ligaments damaged. Self-care measures and over the counter pain management might be all you need, but an evaluation by a professional might be required to determine the appropriate treatment.

Without proper treatment and rehabilitation, the condition can become chronic and can weaken your ankle, making the chances of getting injured again higher. Repeated sprains can lead to other serious long-term problems such as chronic ankle pain, arthritis, and balance instability.


Symptoms and their severity from a sprained ankle vary widely depending on the degree of the injury, and may include

  • Pain at rest or during weight bearing
  • Tenderness when touching ankle
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Reduced range of motion


An ankle sprain happens when the ankle joint is forced to move out of the normal range of motion, causing the ligaments to stretch, tear or completely rupture. Common causes include:

  • Twisting of the ankle while landing from a jump
  • Falling that causes the ankle to bend in an awkward position
  • Weight bearing on an uneven surface


During a physical exam, your doctor will examine your ankle, foot, and leg. The physician will palpate your foot for tenderness and manipulate the foot to check the range of motion to better understand the positions that cause pain and the tissues that are damaged. If it is severe, the physician might recommend one or more imaging scans to rule out broken bones or evaluate the extent of the ligament damage.



Treatment goals for sprained ankles can vary depending on the severity. The goals include reduction of pain and swelling, promotion of healing of the ligament, and restoration of muscle strength, range of motion and proprioception. For more serious injuries, refer to a specialist in musculoskeletal injuries, such as an orthopedic surgeon.


Brukner, P., & Khan, K. (2017). Brukner & Khan’s clinical sports medicine: Volume 1, Injuries  (5th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education (Australia) .

Fong, D. T., Chan, Y.-Y., Mok, K.-M., Yung, P. S., & Chan, K.-M. (2009). Understanding acute ankle ligamentous sprain injury in sports. BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation1(1), 1–14.

Holme, E., Magnusson, S. P., Becher, K., Bieler, T., Aagaard, P., & Kjær, M. (1999). The effect of supervised rehabilitation on strength, postural sway, position sense and re-injury risk after acute ankle ligament sprain. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports9(2), 104–109.

McKeon, P. O., & Hertel, J. (2008). Systematic review of postural control and lateral ankle instability, Part I: Can deficits be detected with instrumented testing? Journal of Athletic Training43(3), 293–304.

Verhagen, E., Van Der Beek, A., Twisk, J., Bouter, L., Bahr, R., & Van Mechelen, W. (2004). The effect of a proprioceptive balance board training program for the prevention of ankle sprains: A prospective controlled trial. American Journal of Sports Medicine32(6), 1385–1393.

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