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Is My Ankle Broken Or Sprained? A Guide To Telling The Difference Between These Common Ankle Injuries

Sep 30, 2015

An Overview of Ankle Injuries

While an ankle injury is often categorized as a sports injury, it can happen to anyone, at any time, and under any circumstance. An ankle injury may also result from:

  • Falling or tripping
  • Landing poorly or awkwardly after a jump
  • Rolling, twisting or oddly rotating the ankle
  • Sudden impact from a motor vehicle accident

The type of ankle injury you may be experiencing is dependent on the tissue or bone that has been damaged.

Ankle Sprain

When an ankle is sprained, it means that the ligaments have been stretched beyond their limit or even torn. Ligaments are the fibrous connective tissue that attach the bones in the body together and keep them in place.

Ankle Fracture

An ankle fracture is a small break in one of the bones that make up the ankle. The top ankle joint is comprised of the shinbone (tibia), the bone of the lower leg (fibula) and the anklebone (talus). Depending on the type and severity of the fracture, surgery may be required to effectively treat the condition.

Is Your Ankle Broken Or Sprained?

When an ankle injury has occurred, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a sprain and a fracture. There are a couple of things to consider following the injury:

  • Pain in the soft tissues of the ankle but not over the bone is likely a sprain
  • Pain over the anklebone may indicate a break
  • If you’re unable to walk or put any pressure on it, it is very likely the ankle is broken.

If you’re still unsure about the severity of the injury, it may be a good idea to watch it over the course of two to four days and utilize the RICE method of treatment and assessment:

  • Rest the ankle to keep the weight off and prevent further injury
  • Ice the ankle to help reduce swelling and pain
  • Compress the injury with a cotton elastic bandage or an air cast to stabilize the ankle and keep it immobile
  • Elevate the ankle to heart level to aid in decreasing swelling and pain

If, after the time period has elapsed, you still have difficulty putting weight on the ankle or have developed dark bruising or blisters, a visit to an orthopedic specialist may be in order for an official diagnosis.

Meet our Specialist

Kevin White, DO Dr. Kevin White is an orthopedic surgeon at The Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey. Board certified in orthopedic surgery, Dr. White has expertise in all aspects of the foot and lower extremity including ankle sprains and fractures, ligament reconstruction and total ankle replacement.

Complete Ankle Care In New Jersey

At The Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey, our physicians are specialized in all orthopedic injuries and conditions. With a multidisciplinary team approach, our fellowship-trained professionals will create a customized plan including diagnosis, treatment and continued care for your ankle injury at one of our locations. For your convenience, we also offer urgent care services at our Roxbury location to provide you with prompt treatment for your sprain or fracture with no appointment required. For more information on ankle injuries or to schedule an appointment with Dr. White, contact us  today or fill out our form.

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