Broken Vs Sprained Ankle

What's the difference between a broken vs sprained ankle?

Injuries are an unfortunate part of life and one of the more common is ankle injuries. What is the difference between a broken vs sprained ankle?

The likelihood of hurting your ankle increases with your level of physical activity. Some of the sports known for leading to ankle injuries are basketball, football, and soccer. The high impact, constant changes in direction and elevation from the ground put your ankle in compromising positions that may lead to injury.

The severity of the injury depends on several factors: the history of injury, body weight and protection around the ankle.

Broken vs sprained ankles defined

A sprained ankle is any injury to the ankle involving stretching or tearing of the ligaments that hold the ankle together. The ankle may be inwardly or outwardly turned (sprained) from simple activities like walking, climbing/descending stairs or even bike riding if your foot slips off of the pedal too quickly.

There is research stating that once you sprain your ankle, you are seven times more likely to sprain it again due to the weakening of the ligaments. A more severe injury is a break of the foot - broken ankle. This occurs when one or multiple bones in the foot are fractured. A fracture happens when small cracks exist in the bone that do not travel all the way through.

Common causes of ankle breaks are also related to sports such as basketball, football, and soccer. Additionally, other causes are car accidents, dropping a heavy weight onto the ankle, falls on ice in the winter, and lack of proper recovery time, resulting in overuse.

Prevention of ankle injuries

It has been said the best defense is a good offense. While ankle injuries cannot be entirely prevented, you have the ability to lower their probability of occurrence.

There are several exercises that can be done to strengthen the ankle and make it more apt to handle the impact daily life and intense physical activity have on it.

Balance training

Practice standing on one foot, switching between legs. This will call the stabilizing muscles of the ankle into action and strengthen them significantly by getting them used to supporting your body weight.

Strengthening exercises

Active plantar flexion and dorsiflexion, soleus stretches and calf raises.

Taping/Bracing

This added level of support doesn't prevent ankle sprains, but should you have one, the injury is mitigated by the wrap or brace you wear.

Proper warm-up

One of the worst things you can do is go into intense physical activity "cold". By warming up your muscles, you decrease your chance of injury, increase your performance and extend your time doing the activities you love.

Treatment of ankle injuries

Treatment of an ankle injury is vital to ensuring long-term damage is not caused. The notion of "walking it off" as seen many times among elite athletes with sprains does not paint an accurate picture.

The average person does not have access to the treatment athletes have, especially at the professional level. While they may be able to play through it with treatment from world-class doctors, others run the risk of compounding the injury and lengthening recovery time.

Some methods of treating a sprained ankle are Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (RICE), medications (non-inflammatory), stretching, physical therapy, massage and limiting weight bearing. For breaks, obviously, walking it off is not possible. Treating a broken ankle consists of immediately seeking medical attention, surgery (if necessary), rest and rehabilitation.

Recovery timelines

The timeline for recovery varies based on a number of factors. Age, weight, injury history, the severity of the injury and diet can play a part in healing. Naturally, the younger you are, the faster you are likely to heal, but this could be hampered if overweight.

If you are in great physical condition but have a poor diet this can slow the recovery process as well. For example, the following foods cause inflammation in joints: sugar, vegetable oil, fried foods, refined flour, dairy, artificial sweeteners, artificial additives, saturated fats, grain-fed meats, processed meats, fast food and trans fats all serve to the detriment of your recovery. If all potential variances are equal, the recovery depends on the severity of the injury.

Severity levels:

A. Grade 1 (Minimal) - 2-4 weeks
B. Grade 2 (Moderate) - 6-8 weeks
C. Grade 3 (Severe) - 12 weeks - 6 months

For ankle fractures, the typical recovery time is from 4-8 weeks or up to 9-12 weeks.

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Last Reviewed:
August 31, 2017
Last Updated:
October 05, 2017
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