Health Care

Understanding Ankle Sprains vs. Fractures

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AdventHealth and Rothman Orthopaedics have joined forces to lead pioneering research and innovative care in Central Florida. Together, we’re transforming the field of orthopedics. This article originally appeared on .

Below, learn about the key differences between ankle sprains and fractures to help recognize when you might need to seek care.

Ankle Sprains

An ankle sprain is an injury to one or more ligaments in the ankle. Ligaments are bands of tissue, like rubber bands, that connect one bone to another and bind the joints together. In the ankle joint, ligaments provide stability by limiting side-to-side movement. Most ankle sprains occur on the outer aspect of the ankle.

Some ankle sprains are worse than others. The severity of an ankle sprain depends on whether the ligament is partially or completely torn and on the number of ligaments involved. Ankle sprains are not the same as strains which affect muscles rather than ligaments.

High Ankle Sprain

This condition occurs when the sprain injures the large ligament above the ankle that joins the two bones of the lower leg, the tibia and fibula, together. The fibula and the tibia are joined together by the syndesmotic ligament which runs from the knee down to the ankle.

Ankle Fractures

A fracture is a partial or complete break in a bone. In the ankle, fractures can range from the less serious avulsion injuries (small pieces of bone that have been pulled off) to severe, shattering-type breaks of the tibia, fibula, or both.

Ankle fractures are common injuries that are most often caused by the ankle rolling inward or outward. Many people mistake an ankle fracture for an ankle sprain, but they are quite different and require an accurate and early diagnosis. Both can occur simultaneously.

Fracture Signs and Symptoms

An ankle fracture is accompanied by one or all of these signs and symptoms:

  • Bone protruding through the skin — a sign that immediate care is needed; fractures that pierce the skin require urgent attention because they can lead to severe infection and prolonged recovery
  • Change in the appearance of the ankle so that it differs from the other ankle
  • Decreased ability to walk — it is possible to walk with less severe breaks, so never rely on walking as a test of whether a bone has been fractured
  • Blisters may occur over the fractured area — these should be promptly treated by a surgeon
  • Bruising
  • Pain at the site of the fracture, which in some cases can extend from the foot to the knee
  • Significant swelling, which may occur along the length of the leg or may be more localized

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This visionary partnership expands the possibilities for world-class treatment for a variety of orthopedic services, including joint replacement, fracture care, reconstruction of the knee, shoulder, elbow and hand and treatments for arthritis and osteoporosis. Together, our leading-edge providers comprise a powerhouse of innovation focused on developing new treatments and widening accessibility to top-level care while raising the bar for orthopedic excellence.

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