Are Ankle Sprains Serious Enough to Warrant a Doctor’s Visit?

What to Look For and When to Reach Out to a Foot and Ankle Specialist

In the vast world of orthopedic conditions that affect us, the ankle sprain is among one of the most common we treat here at Mid-America Orthopedics. According to recent statistics, ankle sprains account for approximately 25 percent of sports injuries, which explains why major-market sports teams always have at least one foot and ankle specialist on staff. However, ankle sprains can happen to anyone, including non-athletes.

What Is an Ankle Sprain? What Are the Different Types?

An ankle sprain occurs when an individual turns, twists, or rolls their ankle in an unnatural or awkward way. The result is that the tissue ligaments that hold the bones of the ankle together can either stretch or completely tear. The most common signs and symptoms of an ankle sprain include:

  • A distinct popping sensation during the time of injury
  • Pain (which increases whenever weight is put on the ankle)
  • Instability
  • Limited range of motion
  • Bruising, swelling, and/or tenderness

When a person suffers a sprained ankle, they usually know it immediately; however, it takes the experience of a foot and ankle doctor to properly determine how severe the sprain is and what treatment will drive the most positive patient outcome. During the initial examination, a foot and ankle specialist determines the exact type of ankle sprain the patient has. The main types of ankle sprain include:

  • Inversion ankle sprain: This type of ankle sprain occurs when the foot is twisted upward and causes the ankle to roll inward.
  • Eversion ankle sprain: This type of ankle sprain occurs when the ankle rolls outward and causes the deltoid ligaments to tear.
  • High ankle sprain: This type of ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments that connect the fibula and tibia are stretched or torn.

A foot and ankle specialist will be able to tell what type of ankle sprain a patient has by performing an examination and collecting information about how the sprain was incurred. Finding out how severe the sprain is requires imaging tests. Foot and ankle doctors will typically order a stress X-ray to see whether the ankle moves abnormally when pushed in different directions. They will also order an MRI to see how severe the ligament tears are.

Ankle sprains come in three grade levels, which include:

  • Grade I: The ligaments are stretched with small tears.
  • Grade II: There are larger tears in the ligament, but it remains intact.
  • Grade III: The ligament is completely torn.

When to Call a Foot and Ankle Specialist

People usually know when they’ve incurred an ankle sprain. What they don’t know is the level of severity, which is why you should always reach out to a foot and ankle specialist. Getting an official diagnosis from a foot and ankle doctor ultimately determines treatment method and estimated recovery time.

For instance, a Grade I inversion ankle sprain is treated much differently than a Grade III eversion ankle sprain. They will also have vastly different recovery times. Mild sprains usually heal in around one to three weeks by properly resting the ankle and using at-home methods such as icing. However, severe ankle sprains can take months to heal, and may even require foot and ankle surgery.

Getting in Touch with a Foot and Ankle Specialist

In the event that you sprain your ankle or suspect the area is injured, the best thing to do is reach out to a foot and ankle specialist so they can properly evaluate the area. The treatment your ankle needs along with the estimated length of recovery time can be determined during your first appointment.

After getting a detailed medical history and some background information about how the ankle was injured, your foot and ankle specialist will examine the area and likely order some tests to gauge how torn your ligaments are. The vast majority of sprains can be treated through non-invasive measures; however, Mid-America Orthopedics has experienced foot and ankle surgeons on staff for severe cases that require surgical treatment.

Additionally, the experienced team at Mid-America Orthopedics can treat all the other parts of the body commonly associated with pain and injury, including:

The best way to get to the root cause of your orthopedic issue is to contact us to make an appointment. Mid-America Orthopedics can also be reached by phone at (316) 630-9300. For the convenience of our patients, we are typically able to offer same-day or next-day appointments.