Ankle Injuries

Ankle Injuries include:

Ankle sprains and strains

What is are ankle sprains and strains?

A sprain is an injury to a ligament (which connects a bone or bones to a joint). A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon – tendons attach muscles to bones. The ankle joint contains three bones, multiple ligaments and multiple muscles and tendons.

Ankle sprains are usually caused by sudden overstretch due to twisting or rolling the ankle. Sprains are graded on severity:

  • A grade 1 sprain is when the ligament is mildly damaged — it has been slightly stretched, but is still able to help keep the ankle joint stable
  • A grade 2 sprain is when the ligament is stretched to the point where it becomes loose — this is often referred to as a partial tear of the ligament
  • A grade 3 sprain occurs when there is a complete tear of the ligament — the ligament has been split into two pieces, and the ankle joint is unstable

Strains to muscle and tendons tend to occur due to overuse or inflammation.

What are the symptoms of ankle sprains and strains?

The symptoms of ankle sprains and strains include:

  • pain, mainly when moving the ankle
  • swelling and bruising
  • reduced range of motion
  • a feeling that your ankle may give way

Some ankle sprains (eg a high ankle sprain) may look and feel like an ankle fracture.

What does your doctor look for?

Your doctor will ask you about how the injury occurred, about your symptoms and about your general health (eg pre-existing conditions, previous injuries).

Your doctor will examine your ankle looking for pain, swelling, deformity and instability and look for signs of blood vessel and nerve damage.

What investigations are needed?

Your doctor may order an x-ray to rule out a fracture. MRI can be helpful to look for ligament and cartilage injuries.

How are ankle sprains and strains treated?

Straight after the injury, you should consider:

  • Paying the PRICE – Protect, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
  • Do no HARM – no Heat, Alcohol, Running or Massage.

Most sprains and strains heal within a few weeks. Beyond the initial treatment, options include:

  • therapy (eg keeping the joint moving, physiotherapy, ankle supports)
  • medications (eg anti-inflammatories and other pain medication such as paracetamol)
  • surgery for severe sprains where the ligaments are badly torn and the joint is unstable or if there is damage to the cartilage in the ankle. Some of this surgery can be performed arthroscopically (keyhole) but ligament repair will typically require open surgery.

Our specialists at Orthopaedic Clinics Gold Coast will work with you to create the best treatment plan for your particular situation.

Ankle fractures

What is an ankle fracture?

An ankle fracture is a break (or crack) in one or more of the three bones that make up the ankle joint: the tibia, the fibula and the talus. The bony bump on the outside of your ankle is the end of the fibula and the one on the inside is the end of the tibia. The talus is the bone that joins the shin to the foot.

Ankle fractures may involve just the shaft of bones or they may involve the jointsas well.

Ankle fractures are usually caused by rolling or twisting the ankle during high impact jumping sports or falling.

What are the symptoms of an ankle fracture?

The symptoms of an ankle fracture are:

  • pain
  • swelling and bruising
  • deformity, which may be severe (eg the foot facing in the wrong direction)
  • inability to stand on the leg
  • inability to move the foot

In some cases, a piece of broken bone may poke out through the skin. This is called a compound fracture.

What does your doctor look for?

Your doctor will ask you about how the injury occurred, about your symptoms and about your general health (eg pre-existing conditions, previous injuries).

Your doctor will examine your ankle looking for pain, swelling, deformity and for signs of blood vessel and nerve damage.

What investigations are needed?

Initial investigation usually involves an X-ray. Due to the complexity of the joint, you may need special X-rays with the ankle under some pressure or a CT scan.

How are ankle fractures treated?

Treatment depends on the location and severity of the fracture, as well as your age and general health, which affect your ability to heal.

If the bones are not displaced and the ankle is stable, conservative therapy may be used. This typically involves a cast or splint and pain medication. Surgical treatment is needed for unstable and displaced fractures. Surgery involves realigning the bones and holding them in place with screws and plates. Your ankle is then immobilised in a splint or cast.

You’ll need to keep weight off your ankle for some weeks. Most people manage with crutches, but some may need a wheelchair. Your doctor will also recommend physiotherapy to help restore strength and flexibility to the ankle.

Our specialists at Orthopaedic Clinics Gold Coast will work with you to create the best treatment plan for your particular situation.