Ankle Ligament Sprains

Ligaments are strong fibrous bands that help to connect two bones together at a joint.  There are many overlapping ligaments around your ankle on the outside (Lateral ligaments) and inside (Deltoid ligaments). They act like strong ropes to hold the bones together and keep your ankle stable by preventing any unwanted movement.

The inside ligaments consists of two layers with the deepest layer being the most important. This ligament is normally only injured with severe fracture or trauma.

The outside of the ankle (lateral ligaments) are comprised of three sections starting at the ankle bone and branching out to the front, middle and back. The front and middle bands are the ligaments that are most commonly sprained and are graded as follows:

Grade 1

The ligament has been slightly overstretched, with minimal damage.  There is likely to be a short period of pain, swelling and stiffness, with full recovery within 6 weeks.

Grade 2

The ligament has been significantly overstretched to the point where it has become loose.  This is also known as a partial tear.  Pain, swelling and stiffness may last a lot longer, and full recovery may take 12-24 weeks.

Grade 3

The ligament has torn into two pieces and is no longer able to support the joint.  This is also known as a complete rupture.  These injuries can still be managed with a course of specific physiotherapy, with a return to activity at 6 months.  However, if the ankle remains unstable and gives way, referral to an Orthopaedic Surgeon may be required to reconstruct the ligament.

The following symptoms may accompany a ankle ligament injury:

  • A popping sound at the time of injury
  • Swelling of your ankle, which may be accompanied by some bruising
  • Pain in your ankle
  • Not being able to use your ankle normally
  • A feeling that your ankle is unstable, or gives way if you try to stand on it

If you have any of the symptoms above, you should seek to have your ankle assessed as soon as possible.  If you have sustained a small tear to a ligament, these are usually best managed by a course of physiotherapy.  This may include:

  • Activity modification – to reduce the amount of strain on the ankle whilst the ligament is recovering
  • Manual therapy – to maintain flexibility and desensitise any painful, shortened structures as a result of the injury
  • Specific Exercise – to gradually re-strengthen the ankle, whilst minimising aggravation
  • Taping/Strapping – to provide pain relief and support to the ankle during recovery.
  • Bracing – is an effective way of managing a complete ligament rupture without needing an operation.  See our Ossur Limb Supports page.

If you have been diagnosed with a complete rupture, we may need to refer you to your GP or a Ankle Consultant for further investigation, such as an MRI scan, to confirm our findings.  We are fortunate to have good links with all local GP practices and Orthopaedic Consultants.

If you would like additional information then please contact us.