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What is an Ankle Sprain?

An ankle sprain refers to tearing or stretching of one or more of the ligaments of the ankle. The most common ankle sprain occurs on the lateral or outside part of the ankle. Ankle sprains can also occur on the inside, or medial part, of the ankle as well.

Ankle sprains are an extremely common injury, which affect many people during a wide variety of activities. There are numerous types and varying degrees of ankle sprains. The two most commonly sustained ankle injuries are lateral (inversion) ankle sprains and medial (eversion) ankle sprains. Lateral ankle sprains are the most common injury, making up about 85% of all ankle sprains. These types of sprains occur from an “inversion” (twisting inwards) mechanism; during movement, the foot will typically roll underneath the ankle and leg. For medial ankle sprains, the opposite occurs. A forceful “turning outward” of the ankle can cause these medial (eversion) ankle sprains. This mechanism is uncommon but can occur in activities such as running or jumping, or getting a foot stuck on an uneven surface.


  • Commonly occurs following a twisting mechanism. The most common way to sprain an ankle is with an inversion injury; the foot rolls inward underneath the foot and leg.
  • Less common is an outward twisting of the foot will cause a medial, or eversion, ankle sprain.
  • High ankle sprains occur from a twisting and rotational force on a planted foot.
  • Any of these can occur in sports involving running, cutting, twisting or pivoting.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Pain on the outside (lateral) or inside (medial) portion of the ankle
  • Swelling, especially on outside of ankle
  • Bruising (ecchymosis)
  • Pain with weight bearing


With any type of ankle sprain, it is important to treat the symptoms. It is important to reduce the initial swelling that is normally associated with acute, traumatic ankle sprains. Utilizing ice, compression and elevation is important. If the athlete is unable to bear weight on the ankle due to significant pain, use of crutches is recommended. Once the initial inflammatory phase is over, it is important to begin to regain normal ankle range of motion as well as strengthen the supporting muscles around the ankle. This can be done through formal physical therapy or through a diligent home exercise program. Once ankle strength is regained, a slow gradual return to play progression should be initiated. Since ankle injuries occur frequently, and someone who has sustained an ankle sprain has a high likelihood of sustaining a second injury, use of ankle prophylactics or braces is recommended for the next several months of sports participation.

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