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Is My Ankle Sprained or Fractured? How to Tell the Difference

Whether you play sports often, or even just walk on a slippery surface, chances are you could end up with a sprained or fractured ankle. Particularly, athletes who participate in sports activities have a heightened risk of sustaining ankle injuries, as we know well at Wellington Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. Learn the difference between a sprain and a fracture with our convenient guide. 

If you have a sprain

A sprain occurs when your ligament, which is the tissue that connects the bones of your ankle joint, becomes stretched or torn. When an incident causes stress to your ankle joint, you can end up with a sprain. 

Sprains come with a lot of pain. If you sustain a severe sprain, causing your ligament to completely tear or separate from the bone, you may feel a popping sensation in addition to pain, bruising, swelling, and inflammation.

Of all the joints in your body, your ankles are the most likely to sustain a sprain. If you've sprained your ankles before, you're at an increased risk of subsequent sprains. Athletes have an increased risk of sprains, especially if they participate in basketball, volleyball, soccer, or other jumping sports. 

To treat a sprain, use the RICE protocol (rest, ice, compression, elevation). For more severe sprains, immobilization, surgery, or physical therapy may be needed.

If you have a fracture

Your ankles contain three bones:

One, or all three, of these bones may fracture, break, or chip as a result of a trauma.

Ankle fractures are common sports injuries. Broken or fractured ankles come with extreme pain. You may hear the bone break, or hear a grinding noise. You may also experience swelling, tenderness, and bruising, as well as difficulty walking or bearing weight on the affected ankle. If you experience visible dislocation, bleeding, or can see bone protruding from the injury, it's a safe bet you have a fractured ankle.

While it may be obvious if your injury is a sprain or a fracture, it can also be difficult to tell the difference without medical help. And, if you have a fracture, getting medical attention is necessary to make sure you're healing properly. If you have numbness, weakness, or poor circulation in the injured limb, you should get urgent help right away. Otherwise, if you have sustained pain that doesn't subside shortly after your injury, come in for a medical evaluation.

Our care team at Wellington Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine has the experience you can trust to diagnose your ankle injuries. When you come in for an appointment, we perform a physical exam, as well as using X-Rays, stress tests, CT scans, and MRI scans as needed to tell if you have a sprain or a fracture. With a strong background in sports medicine, we also offer on-site fracture care. To schedule your appointment at one of our four convenient locations in Cincinnati, or at our offices in Oxford, Sardinia, and West Chester, Ohio, call us or request an appointment online.

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