Ankle sprain is the most common sports injury in the United States. A typical sprain involves an inversion mechanism to the ankle, often with the individual landing on an uneven surface or opposing player's foot. Injury occurs to the lateral ligaments with partial or complete tearing of the ligament and capsular structures on the outside of the ankle as these are stretched. A "pop" is often heard and pain and swelling result. Atypical sprains occur on the medial side (eversion) in the syndesmosis (high ankle sprain) and the midfoot (midfoot sprain).
A physical examination will be performed to assess the amount of pain and swelling, and identify the severity of the sprain. An x-ray may be recommended to determine whether any bones in the ankle or foot are broken. An MRI may be recommended to rule out any damage to the ligaments or joints.
Ankle sprains are very painful and often cause immediate swelling of the outer portion of the ankle. Walking is difficult and sometimes too painful for one to three days, but can usually be done. Pain and limping from mild sprains last five to seven days, moderate sprains can last up to three to four weeks, and severe sprains up to eight weeks.