Ankle sprains are the most common athletic injury in the United States, with approximately 30,000 occurring each day; accounting for nearly 10% of all Emergency Room visits. Usually, injury occurs as the foot rolls too far inward from a slightly flexed position, straining and tearing ligaments located on the outside of the ankle.
In patients that have not previously experienced an ankle sprain, the resulting pain, swelling, bruising, and inability to bear weight are quite surprising and many report "I think I may have broken my ankle" during evaluation. The spectrum of injury severity for ankle sprains is quite broad (Grade 1-3), and other concurrent injuries to ligaments, tendons, or bones around the ankle may also occur.
The good news is that most patients (>80%) go on to recover from ankle sprains without long-term problems after a period of temporary immobilization and protection in an external brace or CAM walker boot, along with rest, ice, compression, elevation, and in some cases, physical therapy.
However, patients with more severe sprains, concurrent injuries, or high arched feet, among other factors, are more likely to fail conservative treatment. These patients may begin to experience repetitive sprains and injury termed "Chronic lateral ankle instability", which ultimately results in the formation of scar tissue, cartilage injury, and eventually if left untreated-arthritis. In these cases, surgery is needed to restore the ankles stability and minimize the risk of developing arthritis.
Although not all ankle sprains require a medical evaluation or surgery, it is important to schedule your appointment with a Fellowship-Trained, Podiatric/Orthopedic Surgeon to better understand your injury. Fellowship-Trained, Podiatric/Orthopedic Surgeons have an additional year of advanced surgical training, to provide patients with the highest quality of care.