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Ankle sprain

Karen L Maughan, MD
Section Editors
Patrice Eiff, MD
Francis G O'Connor, MD, MPH, FACSM
Deputy Editor
Jonathan Grayzel, MD, FAAEM


Ankle injuries are among the most common injuries presenting to primary care offices and emergency departments [1-3]. Patients with ankle sprains (stretching, partial rupture, or complete rupture of at least one ligament) constitute a large percentage of these injuries.

Ankle ligaments provide mechanical stability, proprioceptive information, and directed motion for the joint. Recurrent ankle sprains can lead to functional instability and loss of normal ankle kinematics and proprioception, which can result in recurrent injury, chronic instability, early degenerative bony changes, and chronic pain [4]. Acute ankle sprains can result in lost days of work and inability to participate in sports.

Ankle sprains will be reviewed here. Ankle fractures are discussed separately. (See "Overview of ankle fractures in adults".)


Location — The mechanism of injury generally determines the location of the sprain (figure 1).

Lateral ankle sprain — The most common mechanism of ankle injury is inversion of the plantar-flexed foot (figure 2), which causes damage to the lateral ligament complex of the ankle. This ligament complex consists of the anterior talofibular ligament, the calcaneofibular ligament, and the posterior talofibular ligament (figure 3). The ligaments within this complex are injured in a predictable sequence as forces increase.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jun 06, 2017.
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