One of the most common injuries to the foot or ankle is an ankle sprain. Ankle sprains occur about 800,000 times annually in the United States. Over 20,000 emergency room visits daily are due to ankle sprains from athletics or high heel shoe injuries.
Ankle sprains most often occur when the foot rolls at an exaggerated angle from the ankle joint stretching or damaging the ligaments and tendons . Most sprains to the ankle involve the anterior talo-fibular ligament(outside of the foot) or the deltoid ligament(inside of the foot) depending on which direction the foot rolled.
Ankle sprains can sometimes take longer to heal than broken bones. If not allowed to completely heal the injured ligament or tendon will likely cause further sprains. Three major bones form the ankle: talus, fibula and the tibia. The tibia and fibula from the lower leg join with talus, from the foot, to form the ankle joint. Tendons and ligaments hold the bones together and allow for the flexibility of the foot. Weight bearing injuries can stretch or break these ligaments resulting in a popping sound one might hear or feel.
Physicians will most likely use x-rays to rule out fractured bones. In the absence of a fracture physical inspection of the bruising, swelling, and mobility of the foot can help determine ligament or tendon damage. Your medical provider will also need to know: the circumstances of the injury, whether you felt or heard a popping noise, how the foot rolled and whether you have a history of ankle injuries.
Treatment of ankle sprains will depend on the severity of the injury. Often the ankle will be completely immobilized with a hard cast for 3 to 4 weeks. If the injury is mild the ankle can be strengthened with compression braces. An aggressive physical therapy program may be prescribed for acute injuries to control early pain, protect the ankle joint , re-strengthen the muscles, and re-educate the sensory receptors to achieve complete functional return. It may take 4 to 8 weeks to regain complete mobility of the ankle depending activity levels of the patient. It is important to ensure the ligaments and tendons fully heal before beginning strenuous activities such as running or basketball that stress the ankle or you may risk re-injury.