Ankle Sprains

Definition: common musculoskeletal injury in which the ligaments of the ankle partially or completely tear due to sudden stretching

Medical terminology: medial ankle sprain, lateral ankle sprain, inversion sprain


Ankle sprains are the most frequent type of injuries experienced in sports and even during everyday activities. An ankle sprain occurs when there is an excessive twisting motion of the ankle.

What is the ankle joint?


The ankle joint is made up of three bonesThe ankle joint is held together by

  • major bone of the lower leg; bears most of the body’s weight
  • bottom portion forms the inside of the ankle joint (medial malleolus)


  • Smaller bone of the lower leg; located on the outer side of the tibia
  • Bottom portion forms the outside of the ankle joint (lateral malleolus)


  • The top bone of the foot
  • The tibia and fibula rest above the talus

  • Connect muscles to bones
  • Several muscles control motion at the ankle


  • Connects bone to bone
  • Many ligaments hold the ankle joint together


Any of these things may be damaged in an ankle injury: a bone may be fractured or broken, excessive muscle strain around the ankle joint may cause a tendonitis (inflammation of a tendon), or a ligament may be stretched or torn.

The term ankle sprain usually refers to the injury of a ligament.

What are the signs and symptoms of an ankle sprain?

  • Pain
  • Swelling of the ankle joint
  • Redness and warmth
  • Bruising

What can cause an ankle sprain?

Ligaments are injured when an excessive stretching force is applied to them. The most common way for an ankle sprain to occur is when the foot is excessively turned inward or inverted. This can occur when:

  • Stepping on an uneven surface or stepping into a hole
  • Landing on an object/other person’s foot which causes the foot to invert
  • Awkwardly stepping up or down during normal day activities
  • Excessive twisting motion while the foot is planted on the ground


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When to seek medical care?

Certain situations may require medical attention from a foot specialist or family physician:

  • Injured person cannot walk more than a few steps without severe pain
  • Ankle does not improve within five to seven days
  • Uncontrollable pain even when using pain medication and basic first-aid principles

Situations that require a trip to the hospital are:

  • Unable to walk four steps, even with a limp
  • Injured ankle cannot be moved
  • Excessive swelling of the ankle joint
  • Severe pain when either side of the ankle, on the bony part, is touched
  • Loss of feeling in the foot or toes
  • Redness spreading outside the area of injury

What are the medical treatments for an ankle sprain?

At the Mississauga Foot Clinic treatment by a foot care specialist will consist of a comprehensive ankle assessment to determine the severity of the injury. The appropriate treatment will be decided after the severity of the injury is known. Treatment may incorporate medication and different off-loading devices to reduce pressure and motion of the injured ankle such as:

  • Removable air-cast boot
  • Ankle-foot-orthoses (AFO)
  • Leg cast
  • Crutches
  • Oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen or naproxen

How can I prevent an ankle sprain?

  • Wearing proper footwear for the activity being performed
  • High-top shoes which increase ankle support
  • Wearing an ankle brace or ankle taping to provide extra support for any activity
  • Be aware of uneven surfaces or any holes
  • Ankle-foot-orthoses to stabilize the ankle joint
  • Custom-made orthotics to control unwanted motion and realign the structures of the foot