Common Ankle Injuries
Ankle sprains alone represent as much as 20 percent of all sports injuries in America. And while minor ones may resolve with conservative home treated, even these can develop into chronic issues without proper care.
A sprain occurs when one or more of the ligaments that stabilize the bones of the ankle joint get stretched or torn. This often happens after an awkward fall, landing, or accidental contact with another player hyperextends the ankle beyond its normal range of motion.
Common symptoms include pain, swelling, tenderness, and restricted range of motion. More serious sprains may result in bruising or a feeling of wobbliness and instability.
In an ankle fracture, one or more of the actual bones in the ankle joint breaks. Most often this occurs in the fibula, the thinner and non-weight-bearing bone in the lower leg. However, either or both of the tibia and fibula can be broken, in different ways and locations.
Ankle fractures often occur in addition to sprains, so you might not immediately realize that a bone has broken as well. Often our patients are surprised when the X-ray reveals more damage than they originally suspected.
Although broken ankles share many symptoms with sprains, the pain is often more intense and there is more likely to be significant bruising, swelling, and restricted motion. If the fracture is unstable, the joint may appear noticeably deformed.
Chronic Ankle Injuries
One unfortunate consequence of traumatic ankle injuries is that, unless you are extremely disciplined about your treatment and rehab (and sometimes even if you are), they make it more likely you will injure your ankle again or develop long-term problems.
Chronic ankle pain and instability is a condition in which your ankle constantly feels wobbly or about to give out. After multiple sprains—or even just one bad one that was never properly treated or rehabbed—the ligaments may not return to their original tightness or strength. In addition to the pain and instability, you are far more likely to suffer more and more sprains in the future.
A history of ankle injuries also frequently leads to post-traumatic arthritis in the ankle joint. Essentially, your injuries cause the cartilage and joint surfaces to wear down faster and cause pain and stiffness much earlier in your life.