What Happens When You Sprain Your Ankle?

Quck answer

Spraining your ankle occurs when the ligaments that connect the bones in the ankle joint stretch or tear. This can happen due to a sudden twist or turn, leading to pain, swelling, and difficulty walking. When you sprain your ankle, blood vessels may also be damaged, causing bruising. The severity of a sprain can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of ligament damage. Treatment typically involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE), along with pain medication and physical therapy. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the torn ligaments.


During a soccer game, you’ve been running back and forth countless times for the past 30 minutes. Although tired, you push yourself to make one final attack on the goal.

With a pass from your best friend, you receive the ball. You dribble to the right and then to the left. A defender tries to steal the ball by extending their foot.

Instead of touching the ball, your foot lands on the side of the defender’s foot, causing your ankle to twist unnaturally. You fall to the ground in pain as the game comes to an end. The only thing on your mind is the throbbing pain in your ankle.

A teammate helps you limp to the sideline, and you worry that you may have broken a bone. However, after visiting the doctor, you receive good news: it’s just a sprained ankle and you’ll be able to return to the game in a few weeks.

Unlike strains, which occur when a muscle is stretched too far, a sprain happens when a ligament is overextended or torn. Ligaments are the strong, flexible tissues that hold bones together in your joints.

Sprains are painful and can occur in any part of your body where there are ligaments. Although athletes are prone to sprains, anyone can experience them from tripping or falling.

In addition to pain, sprains often lead to swelling and bruising. After an injury, the movement of the sprained body part may be severely limited. The exact symptoms vary depending on the severity of the sprain: mild overstretching (Grade 1), partial tearing (Grade 2), and complete tearing with significant pain and swelling (Grade 3).

If a doctor diagnoses a sprain, you will likely need to take pain medication and support the injured area with a brace, splint, or temporary cast. At home, you should follow the RICE formula for ongoing treatment.

No, this does not mean you have to eat rice for every meal. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Rest the injured area, apply ice packs to reduce swelling, use compression with an elastic bandage or splint, and elevate the injured body part above your heart to reduce swelling.

Severe sprains can take 3-4 weeks or longer to heal properly. It is important to carefully follow your doctor’s instructions and avoid rushing back into activities too soon. Once your sprain has healed, you should engage in stretching and strengthening exercises to improve strength and flexibility.

Try It Out

Are you interested in learning more about your muscles and how to keep them healthy? Ask a friend or family member to assist you in exploring the following activities:

  • Visit The Ankle website to view illustrations of the bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles that compose the human ankle. Remove your footwear and socks to closely examine your own ankle. Can you identify the different parts of the ankle on your body?
  • While it may not be possible to prevent all injuries, such as ankle sprains, you can help prepare your body for physical activity by stretching before exercising or participating in a game. Explore these online Ankle Stretches to learn the proper techniques for stretching your ankles before engaging in any significant running.
  • Have you ever experienced an injury while playing a team sport during the season? It’s the worst, isn’t it? Sitting on the sidelines while your friends have all the fun is not enjoyable. However, injuries do happen, and they don’t have to completely halt your enjoyment with your team. Think of at least five ways in which you can still contribute and make a positive impact on your team, even if you’re unable to play due to an injury. Share your ideas with a friend.

Recommended Sources

  • http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/ankle-sprains.html
  • http://kidshealth.org/en/kids/strains-sprains.html

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