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Is My Ankle Sprained or Broken?

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Is My Ankle Sprained or Broken?

Ankle injuries like sprains or fractures have similar symptoms, making it difficult to distinguish one from the other, especially if your ankles are very swollen post-injury. Not only that, but it’s possible to have both injuries at the same time, making it even more challenging to discern what you have without a doctor’s evaluation. An imaging test like an X-ray or MRI can answer the question of whether your ankle is sprained and/or broken. It’s important to have a medical professional examine your ankle no matter the type of injury you think you have.

How Can I Tell Difference Between a Sprain and a Fracture?

It’s possible you don’t know whether you have a sprain or a fracture because the pain that results feels similar. However, they are distinctly different because they involve different body structures. A sprain is an injury to a ligament that attaches 2 bones together, and a fracture is a broken bone. The break may be a hairline fracture or completely dislocated and displaced.

The following may help you discern which injury you have:

  • Onset of pain: Typically, ankle fractures cause immediate, intense pain. Ankle sprains may also have the same type of pain, but it typically gets worse with time.
  • The mechanism that caused your injury: If you had a direct blow to your ankle rather than twisting, rolling, or jumping and then feeling pain, it’s more likely your ankle is broken rather than sprained.
  • Where it hurts: If the pain is directly over the bone, your ankle may be broken. If the pain comes more over a soft part of the ankle, you may have a sprain.
  • Any visible deformity: The ankle is more likely to look disfigured from a fracture than a sprain.

What Is an Ankle Sprain Versus a Fracture?

Sprains involve ligament injury. These are the fibrous connective tissues connecting bones together and stabilizing the joint. If you suddenly twist your foot and overstretch the ankle ligaments, it can cause a sprain, usually on the outer part of the foot. Although these are usually minor injuries, they can be more severe depending on the amount of damage to your ligaments. For example, a grade 1 sprain involves an overstretched, but not torn, ligament. Grade 2 sprains involve partially torn ligaments, and grade 3 sprains involve completely torn ligaments.

An ankle fracture may involve one or more of the 3 bones that make up the ankle joint: the tibia (shinbone), fibula (smaller long bone in the lower leg), or talus (the bone above the heelbone and below the fibula and tibia). Depending on the severity of your injury, it may take 6 weeks to 2 years to regain full function. Usually, injuries that are less severe don’t require surgery and heal completely in less than 8 weeks.

Contact Us at Fox Valley Orthopedics

Do you have ankle pain? We can diagnose what is causing your discomfort and get you on the path to healing. To contact us at Fox Valley Orthopedics, please call (630) 584-1400 today to book your appointment.