Almost all of us at some point in our lives have missed a stair, slipped on ice or just rolled our ankle and felt the pain of a sprained ankle. When the ankle is over rotated, the ligaments of the ankle can become stretched which is what causes the pain and swelling associated with an ankle sprain. However, many people are unsure of the severity of the sprain and if their has been damage to the ligament. Therefore, it is very important to understand that a sprained ligament and a torn ligament are not the same thing.
Sprained ligaments are ligaments that have been abnormally stretched. Ankle sprains classified as mild to moderate indicate sprained ligaments.
Torn ligaments are those that have been partially or fully torn. It’s confusing, but ankle sprains that are classified as moderate to severe indicate that ligaments have been torn—a serious injury.
The three most common signs of torn ligaments are:
1. Pain. The first symptom is pain immediately following the injury. The amount of pain alone is not always enough to diagnose a tear, but it’s a clear-cut sign that a tear might have occurred. If a person has experienced an ankle injury in the past, they can compare pain levels to get a feel for how severe their current injury is.
2. Swelling and bruising. Because the foot and ankle bear most of the body’s weight, swelling and bruising always occur following an injury. The degree to which swelling and bruising occur depends on the individual and severity of the injury.
3. Instability. A surefire way to tell if a ligament has been torn is to assess the degree of instability. Severe lack of stability, balance, and ability to bear weight are often signs that a ligament has been torn.
If you have any of the symptoms above, it is best to seek the expertise of an orthopedic specialist to determine the severity of the injury develop an appropriate treatment plan. In most cases, these injuries can be managed with rest and the use of a temporary brace. When these injuries are not treated properly, they can lead to further damage to the ligament and possibly require surgical correction.
At Advanced Bone and Joint, Dr. Anthony Lombardo leads our Foot and Ankle Team. Dr. Lombardo is board certified by the American Board of Podiatric Surgery and is a fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. He has over 20 years of experience in treating all forms of foot and ankle conditions and has offices in both St. Peters and O'Fallon.