In comparison to the rest of the human body, ankles appear relatively flimsy. So it's little wonder that they sometimes give out during physical activity. Ankle sprains and strains, for example, are quite common. How common? According to the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, approximately 25,000 people suffer this injury every single day. Because these injuries occur so frequently, it's not unusual for people to dismiss all ankle injuries as minor. However, if you have suffered a painful twist to your ankle, it may be more than just a simple strain. It could actually be a dislocated or broken ankle.
When It's More than a Strain or a Sprain
In 2014, Washington Redskins' quarterback Robert Griffin III suffered a dislocated ankle -- which is a relatively rare injury -- during a game against the Jaguars. The injury sidelined him for a large part of the season. A broken ankle is another serious injury that can be mistaken for a sprain. That is why it's important to consult with a podiatrist after an ankle injury, especially if you:
- Heard a loud popping noise at the time of the injury.
- Are in extreme pain.
- Have a lot of swelling in the affected ankle.
- Notice that your ankle looks "deformed" or misshapen
- Feel like your foot is numb or appears pale in color
To determine the extent of your injury, your podiatrist will examine you and also:
- Take a history from you to learn how the injury occurred and to learn whether or not you have had any similar injuries in the past
- Order an X-ray. In addition, an ankle doctor may also order CT or MRI scans.
Dislocated Ankle Treatment
If it is determined that you have suffered a dislocated ankle, your podiatrist will try to help return the affected dislocated bones back into their normal position. Occasionally, the bones will return to their normal placement on their own but, if necessary, your podiatrist may use traction to help the process along. You may also need:
- A temporary splint for your ankle
- To undergo an operation to correct any of the structures in your ankle that may have been damaged during the injury.
- Complete physical therapy to regain strength in the affected ankle.
If the X-rays reveal that you have a broken ankle, the podiatrist may or may not recommend surgery. For example, if you have suffered a stress fracture, your podiatrist may just recommend that you keep weight off of the ankle and wear a cast to protect the affected area while it heals. If, however, your injury is severe, your podiatrist may recommend surgery to fix your ankle.
Minor Ankle Injuries
If you're lucky and your X-rays and examination show that you have only suffered a mild ankle sprain or a strain, your doctor is likely to recommend RICE:
- Rest -- keep weight off your ankle by using crutches or not walking on it.
- Ice -- apply ice to reduce swelling.
- Compression -- wrap your ankle to give it support and to minimize movement.
- Elevation -- prop up your affected ankle when seated or lying down so that it is above your heart or waist.
In addition, your podiatrist may also recommend that you undergo a course of physical therapy, which could help strengthen the muscles around your ankle. Your physician might also prescribe a brace for you to give the affected ligament more support in the future.
Whether your injury is minor or of a more severe nature -- such as a break or a dislocation -- it is important to consult with a podiatrist as soon as possible after the injury. If you don't take care of an ankle injury properly, it could lead to long-term problems and weakness in the affected ligament.