Ankle Sprains

Patient Information: Ankle Sprains


What are the types of ankle sprains that can occur? 


  • A low ankle sprain is an injury to the ligament on the outside of the ankle that connects to your foot
    • This is the most common type of ankle sprain 
  • A high ankle sprain is an injury to ligaments above the ankle joint 
  • Most ankle sprains are inversion injuries, where the outer edge of your foot rolls inward, under your leg 
  • A grade 1 sprain is mild stretching and tearing of ligaments 
  • A grade 2 sprain is partial tearing of ligaments 
  • A grade 3 sprain is complete tear of ligaments 


What are the symptoms of an ankle sprain? 


  • Pain, swelling, instability, and tenderness to touch 
  • With low ankle sprains pain can radiate into the foot 
  • With high ankle sprains pain can radiate up the leg 


How are ankle sprains diagnosed? 


  • An X-ray will be obtained to rule out a fracture of your ankle or the bones in your foot 
  • Your physician will examine the strength and stability of your ankle 
  • Musculoskeletal ultrasound can be used to evaluate the ligaments of your ankle o In severe cases, or those that do not respond to treatment, an MRI may be ordered to evaluate soft tissue damage


How are ankle sprains treated? 


  • RICE is the primary treatment for all ankle sprains: Rest from weightbearing activities, ice regularly, compression wraps (possibly combined with a walking boot and/or crutches), and elevation to improve swelling
  • After the initial pain and swelling improves, gentle exercises for strength, flexibility, and range of motion can be initiated- if this is tolerated, a gradual return to full activity can be initiated
  • In rare, severe cases, surgery may be needed to repair torn ligaments How can I prevent ankle sprains?
  • Wear activity-appropriate, supportive footwear
  • Avoid or exercise with caution on uneven or poorly maintained surfaces
  • Warm up and stretch prior to activity, and do not exercise past the point of fatigue
  • Integrate “foot core” training into your regular exercise routine- see below 


Where can I learn more about ankle sprains?


To schedule an appointment, visit the Steward St. Elizabeth’s Sports Medicine website at:



736 Cambridge St, CCP9, Brighton, MA 02135 


Phone 617-779-6500 

Fax 617-779-6555 


Adapted from: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (, Hospital for Special Surgery (, Mayo Clinic ( This information is for patient reference only. It is not intended to diagnose or guide treatment without evaluation by a physician.