An ankle sprain or ‘sprained ankle’ is an injury to the ligaments that connect the bones in your ankle. Ligaments are tough bands of tissue that help hold your joints together. When you sprain your ankle, the ligaments stretch or tear. This can cause pain, swelling, weakness, and bruising.
Ligaments are a fibrous, connective tissue that attaches bone to bone (as opposed to tendons that similar but connect bone to muscle). They generally keep bones together to stabilise joints avoid an excessive range of movement.
Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries for off-road runners, but can also occur from everyday activities such as walking on uneven surfaces or landing awkwardly from a fall. The severity of an ankle sprain can vary from mild to severe. Whereas a mild sprain involves stretching of the ligaments, severe sprains involve tearing of the ligaments. The most common type of ankle sprain is a lateral sprain, which occurs when the ligaments on the outside of the ankle are stretched or torn.
The symptoms of an ankle sprain can include:
- Difficulty walking or putting weight on the ankle
- Instability in the ankle
The treatment for an ankle sprain depends on the severity of the injury. Mild sprains can usually be treated with RICE therapy:
More severe sprains may require immobilization with a cast or brace. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair torn ligaments.