Common Ankle Injuries: Prevention and Treatment

By Terry H. Clarke

The most common ankle injury, a sprain, occurs when an individual stretches the ligaments in the ankle beyond their natural limits, even to the point of tearing. Podiatrists categorize sprains according to three classes, which depend on the degree of trauma. Sprain treatments include rest, ankle elevation, ice, and compression. With partial ligament tears, the patient may require a splint to immobilize the joint. In the event of complete tear, a physician sometimes recommends a short leg cast to promote healing and avoid permanent damage. On rare occasions, the injury may necessitate surgical repair.

All three grades of sprain demand some degree of physical therapy, which should emphasize steps to take in order to avoid re-injury. Those prone to ankle sprains can invest in custom foot orthoses, which not only promote fast healing, but also improve overall balance. Another common injury, an osteochondral fracture, results from damage to the cartilage and bone that constitute a joint. Improperly healed sprains occasionally lead to osteochondral fractures. Depending on the degree of injury, a physician may perform arthroscopic surgery, which removes loose bone fragments and allows the joint to heal.

Smaller fractures require only ankle immobilization and pain management. Athletes frequently tear the tissue that holds one of the foot’s main tendons, the peroneal tendon, in place. When this happens, the tendon may slip, causing swelling, discoloration, pain on the outside of the ankle, and discomfort when turning the feet in certain directions. As with a sprain, the best treatments for this injury include rest, elevation, compression, and ice. Once inflammation has subsided, the patient should gently stretch the ankle, restoring a full range of motion.

About the Author: A board-certified foot and ankle surgeon, Dr. Terry H. Clarke treats a full range of injuries, pain disorders, and deformities. He treats patients through Keystone Podiatric Medical Associates, P.C., which operates several offices throughout Pennsylvania. Dedicated to giving back to his local community, Dr. Terry H. Clarke volunteers at homeless shelters and offers free foot screenings for runners.

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