Around 25,000 people sprain their ankles in the United States every day that need medical care. With that many injuries, it’s not surprising that sprained ankles are something almost everyone has experienced at least once.

When it comes to diagnosing and treating sprained ankles, most people choose to take matters in their own hands, which means the number of ankle sprains is actually much higher than what’s reported.  

Before deciding to diagnose and self treat an ankle injury yourself, make sure you don’t need to seek medical attention first. If you experience any of these issues, please consult a medical professional:

  • If you heard a “popping” sound when the injury occurred, this may indicate you have a torn ligament or fracture
  • If your injury shows no improvement after three to four days of rest, ice, and compression
  • If you can’t walk due to pain or your ankle feels extremely unstable when you stand
  • If anything looks abnormal when compared to the opposite leg or ankle

Type of Ankle Sprains

Generally speaking, there are two types of ankle sprains that are diagnosed depending on where the injury is located on the ankle: low ankle sprains and high ankle sprains.

  • Low Ankle Sprains

    A low ankle sprain is the most common ankle injury, accounting for nearly 80% of all ankle injuries. It happens when your ankle rolls inward, stretching the ligaments that connect the bones on the outside of your ankle joint.  The medical term for this type of injury is called an inversion ankle sprain. The alternative to an inversion sprain is an eversion sprain. This happens when your ankle rolls outward, stretching the inside ligaments that connect the bones of your ankle joint.

  • High Ankle Sprains

    A high ankle sprain occurs when your foot or ankle externally rotates and stretches the tissue holding your two lower leg bones (tibia & fibula) together. This injury occurs above the ankle joint which is why it has the name “high ankle” injury. The medical term for this type of injury is called a syndesmotic ankle injury, and it causes more pain and requires a longer rehabilitation period when compared to a low ankle injury.

Diagnosing a Sprained Ankle

When you sprain your ankle, a medical professional will measure the grade of the sprain according to its level of severity and provide an appropriate treatment plan.

  • Grade 1 Sprain (Mild)

    A mild sprain happens when your ligament is stretched, and it is usually accompanied by some swelling and a little soreness. If you can walk on your ankle 24 to 48 hours after the injury occurs with little to no pain, you probably have a grade 1 sprain.

  • Grade 2 Sprain (Moderate)

    A moderate sprain happens when your ligament is partially torn, and it is usually accompanied by swelling and discoloration. You may also experience weight bearing pain. If 24 to 48 hours after your injury it  is too painful to stand or walk, you may require crutches or a semi-rigid ankle brace designed to reduces weight bearing pain.

  • Grade 3 Sprain (Severe)

    A severe sprain happens when there is a complete tear of your ligament, and it is usually accompanied by swelling, discoloration, weight bearing pain, and some noticeable ankle instability. If 24 to 48 hours after your injury it is too painful to stand or even walk seek medical attention immediately as this instability may cause further damage if untreated properly.


Your ankle joint is supported by ligaments, and once these ligaments are stretched or torn due to an ankle sprain, they remain stretched. This causes your joint to become loose and unstable, and this makes getting another ankle injury much easier. To stop the inevitable cycle of recurring  future ankle injuries, take proper steps to recover from your ankle sprain by treating and rehabbing your injury properly.


Help Prevent Ankle Sprains