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Ankle Sprains

A sprained ankle is the most common type of soft tissue injury. Soft tissue means any tissue in your body that isn't bone. An ankle sprain is one of the most common reasons people visit hospital emergency rooms in the United States.

A minor sprain is when a ligament is stretched or partially torn. In severe sprains the ligament is completely torn. Sometimes the end of the bone to which a ligament is attached can crack.

When you sprain your ankle there is sometimes a snapping or popping sound and a feeling of "giving way" as a ligament is torn or bone cracked. A sprain can be very painful, with the pain getting worse when you move your ankle. With a severe sprain, you may not be able to bear weight on your leg.

You may have swelling and bruising. Swelling happens soon after the injury but bruising can take up to 24 hours to fully develop. The swelling around your ankle can make it difficult to move your foot, and your ankle may feel unstable.

Causes of Ankle Sprains:

The most common type of ankle sprain is when your foot turns inwards, overstretching the ligaments on the outside of your ankle. This is called an inversion sprain.

Half of all ankle sprains happen during sport. They are especially common in sports that involve running and jumping, landing from a jump, fast changes in direction or lots of stop-starts (such as football, basketball and volleyball).

Other common causes of ankle sprains include:

  • walking on an irregular surface
  • your foot slipping off the edge of a kerb
  • twisting your ankle while climbing stairs
  • losing your balance wearing high-heels

You are more likely to sprain your ankle if it has happened before.

Foot Sprains

A foot sprain is a tear of ligaments, the tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect bones to one another inside a joint. Sprains range in severity from Grade I to Grade III.

Because the foot bears the entire body's weight with each step and contains numerous bones and joints, you might expect the foot to be at high risk of sprains. However, sprains of the foot are fairly rare, except in people who participate in certain sports or occupations that subject the feet to abnormal twisting motions or bends.

When foot sprains occur, they usually involve one of two distinct areas:

Midfoot — The midfoot is the central area that includes the arch of the foot. In athletes, midfoot sprains usually occur because of a sports-related fall, a collision or an isolated twist of the midfoot, particularly during snowboarding, windsurfing, horseback riding or competitive diving. Among women ballet dancers, midfoot sprains typically happen when the dancer loses her balance while en pointe (on her toes) and spinning, or when she lands with her foot abnormally flexed or rotated after a jump. Among people who do not compete in high-risk activities, about one-third of midfoot sprains happen by accident, simply because of an odd twist of the foot during an ordinary stumble or fall. Less often, severe midfoot sprains are the result of high-impact trauma, especially trauma caused by a motor vehicle collision or a fall from a high place. This type of injury is likely to produce not only Grade III sprains, but also foot fractures and open wounds.

First metatarsophalangeal joint — This is the joint at the base of the big toe. A sprain of this joint is called turf toe, and is usually caused by hyperextension (extreme backward bending) of the big toe. The typical scenario involves either a football player or a ballet dancer who falls forward while the big toe is planted flat against the ground. In football, turf toe is most common in players who wear lightweight soccer-style shoes while competing on artificial playing surfaces. The relatively flexible soles of their shoes probably don't offer enough protection for the metatarsophalangeal joint, increasing the risk of a turf-toe injury. The situation is probably similar for ballet dancers, particularly males.

Symptoms of a Foot Sprain:

In a mild or moderate midfoot sprain, your midfoot area will be swollen and tender, and there may be some local bruising (black and blue discoloration). In more severe sprains, you may not be able to bear weight on your injured foot. If you have turf toe, the base of your big toe will be painful and swollen.