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Is My Ankle Sprained or Broken?

Foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons share symptoms to watch out for after an ankle injury Rosemont, Ill. (December 30, 2021) – More than 1 million people visit emergency rooms each year with ankle injuries, unsure if they sustained an ankle sprain or a more significant fracture. And since both injuries can happen the same way, how do you know if your ankle is broken (fractured) or sprained? Learn how to tell the difference from the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) and foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons.

Ankle Sprains

Your ankle is made up of bones, cartilage (cushioning at the end of bones), tendons (connectors between bones and muscles), and ligaments (connectors between bones). An ankle sprain occurs when one of the ligaments tears after twisting or rolling the ankle. “After you sprain your ankle, there may be mild to moderate swelling or bruising,” said Natalie S. Mesnier, MD, a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon at Multnomah Orthopedic Clinic in Portland, Oregon. “If the injury is a ‘run of the mill’ ankle sprain, you may have discomfort or a limp for a few hours or even a few days, but even with discomfort, you will be able to put weight on your ankle.”

Dr. Mesnier explains that a sprained ankle is graded by severity: Grade 1 (mild sprain), Grade 2 (moderate), or Grade 3 (severe). Most of the time, treatment for an ankle sprain is guided by the well-known acronym R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation). For moderate or severe sprains, your foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon may consider a splint or walking boot to support the ankle and keep it stable, which allows the ligaments to heal as tightly as possible. With more severe sprains, crutches may also be helpful to minimize pain with walking.

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  • Oregon Medical Association
  • Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center
  • American Academy of orthopaedic Surgery
  • American orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society