Brian C. Toolan MD
Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Surgery
The University of Chicago
Section of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine
5841 S. Maryland Ave. MC 3079 Chicago Illinois 60637
Phone 773.702.6984 Fax 773.702.0076
Approximately 25,000 people sprain their ankle every day as the result of stepping on an
uneven surface or falling. Sometimes, it is an awkward moment when you lose your
balance, but the pain usually fades quickly, and you are able to return to your activities.
But the sprain can be more severe causing swelling and pain with weight bearing. If it’s
a severe sprain, you may have heard a “popping” when you were injured
A sprained ankle in an injury to one or more ligaments on the outside of your ankle were
stretched or torn. If not treated properly, you may have persistent problems.
You are most likely to sprain your ankle when you have your heel lifted off the ground
and your toes are pointed down. A sudden force like landing on an uneven surface may
turn your ankle inward, likely injury one or more of the three ligaments on the outside of
Your doctor will do a physical exam and get x-rays to make sure you haven’t broken any
bones. Depending on how many ligaments are damaged, your sprain will be classified as
grade I, II or III.
Treating your sprained ankle properly may prevent chronic pain and instability. Grade I
sprains are usually treated with resting the ankle by not walking on it, ice therapy,
elevation, and compressive bandages to immobilize and support your injury. The
swelling usually resolves in a few days. For Grade II injuries, you will need to do the
above treatments, however, you may require a period of immobilization in a cast or
splint. For Grade III injuries, sometimes surgery is indicated to repair the damaged
ligaments, especially in competitive athletes. For people who have recurrent ankle
sprains surgery may also be indicated to tighten loose ligaments.
After the initial treatment described above, you will need physical therapy. This is to
restore your ankle’s flexibility and strength. This will be followed by gradually returning
to activities on flat level surfaces and then ramping back up to sports activities.
It is important to complete the rehabilitation program because it makes it less likely that
you will re-injure the ankle again. If you don’t complete the rehab, you are at an
increased risk of chronic pain, instability and ankle arthritis.
To prevent future injuries, it is important to pay attention to your body’s warning signs.
You should slow down or cease any activity that causes pain or fatigue and continue your
stretching and strengthening exercises learned in physical therapy to maintain good