Ankle Sprains & Fractures

What Is An Ankle Sprain or Fracture?

An ankle sprain is an injury to one or more ligaments in the ankle. Ligaments are bands of tissue, like rubber bands, that connect one bone to another and bind the joints together. In the ankle joint, ligaments provide stability by limiting side-to-side movement. Most ankle sprains occur on the outer aspect of the ankle

.A fracture is a partial or complete break in a bone. In the ankle, fractures can range from the less-serious avulsion injuries (small pieces of bone that have been pulled off) to severe, shattering-type breaks of the tibia, fibula, or both.

What Causes An Ankle Sprain or Fracture?

Some ankle sprains are worse than others. The severity of an ankle sprain depends on whether the ligament is partially or completely torn and on the number of ligaments involved. Ankle sprains are not the same as strains which affect muscles rather than ligaments.

High Ankle Sprain

This condition occurs when the sprain injures the large ligament above the ankle that joins the two bones of the lower leg, the tibia and fibula, together. The fibula and the tibia are joined together by the syndesmotic ligament which runs from the knee down to the ankle.

Ankle fractures are common injuries that are most often caused by the ankle rolling inward or outward. Many people mistake an ankle fracture for an ankle sprain, but they are quite different and require an accurate and early diagnosis. Both can occur simultaneously

What Are The Symptoms of An Ankle Sprain or Fracture?

You may have a sprained ankle if you notice the following symptoms in the ankle:
  • swelling.
  • tenderness.
  • bruising.
  • pain.
  • inability to put weight on the affected ankle.
  • skin discoloration.
  • stiffness.

An ankle fracture is accompanied by one or all of these signs and symptoms:

*Pain at the site of the fracture, which in some cases can extend from the foot to the knee.
*Significant swelling, which may occur along the length of the leg or may be more localized.
*Blisters may occur over the fractured area. These should be promptly treated by a surgeon.
*Decreased ability to walk—it is possible to walk with less severe breaks, so never rely on walking as a test of whether a bone has been fractured.
*Change in the appearance of the ankle so that it differs from the other ankle.
*Bone protruding through the skin—a sign that immediate care is needed! Fractures that pierce the skin require urgent attention because they can lead to severe infection and prolonged recovery.

What Are The Treatment Options For An Ankle Sprain or Fracture?


In more severe cases, surgery may be required to adequately treat an ankle sprain. Surgery often involves repairing the damaged ligament or ligaments. An AOS foot and ankle surgeon will select the surgical procedure best suited for each patient based on the type and severity of the injury.

High ankle sprains tend not to heal as quickly as the more common ankle sprains. An orthopaedic physician will begin treatment by first determining if the injury is stable or unstable. A stable injury is one in which the tibia and fibula do not separate from each other. These injuries can be treated in a cast or walking boot that will be worn for approximately six weeks.  When the injury is more severe and unstable, the tibia and fibula separate from each other. Surgery, which involves placing a screw between the fibula and tibia to secure the bones in proper position while the ligament heals, is the most likely treatment. This procedure is generally considered a relatively safe and trusted surgical procedure.

After surgery, rehabilitation is extremely important. Completing your rehabilitation program is crucial to a successful outcome.


Surgery is often required for many types of ankle fractures. The determination for surgery will largely depend on the appearance of the ankle joint on the X-ray as well as the specific type of fracture. Restoring proper alignment of the broken bone is essential to full recovery. Arthritis can occur after an ankle fracture, and the safest way to minimize this risk of arthritis is to recreate a normal ankle joint.

Our team is here for you

We offer the best, least invasive and least aggressive options to relieve your pain and symptoms so you can get back to the life you love. Atlantic Orthopaedic Specialists Foot & Ankle Care Center has convenient locations in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Chesapeake.