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How Is a Sprained Ankle Graded?

You didn’t see the end of the sidewalk coming and you twisted your ankle on the curb. Or, perhaps you rolled your ankle playing sports or running. The point here is that ankle injuries occur all too easily, which is why more than 25,000 people sprain an ankle each day in the United States.

At our practice, William Schell, MD, our team routinely helps patients who’ve sustained ankle injuries, and we understand the importance of getting the right care from the outset.

In the following, we explore the different grades of sprained ankles and why early — and correct — intervention is key.

Sprained ankles at a glance

Your ankles are complex joints that bring together three bones, including your:

Keeping these bones together and providing crucial stability is a network of ligaments.

When you twist, roll, or rotate your ankle, you can push these ligaments past their normal range of motion, which leads to a sprained ankle. Most sprained ankles involve the lateral ligaments, which are located on the outside of your ankle. 

Grades of sprained ankles

There are three different grades of sprained ankles, which go from mild to severe. These grades include:

Grade 1 sprain

This type of sprain is relatively mild and occurs when microscopic tears develop in your ligaments as a result of the overstretching. Symptoms of a grade 1 sprain typically include pain, tenderness, and swelling in your ankle.

Grade 2 sprain

Also called a moderate sprain, a grade 2 sprained ankle describes partial tearing in your ligament(s). If you have a grade 2 sprain, your ankle will be tender, painful, and swollen, and we may discover weakness in your ankle when we move it during your examination.

Grade 3 sprain

This is the most severe form of a sprained ankle and occurs when there’s a complete tear in your ligament. When this happens, you may feel considerable discomfort in your ankle and develop significant swelling. You will also experience some degree of instability in the joint without the support of the ligament.

Why grading your sprain is important

Any time you sprain your ankle, it’s worth having us take a look so we can assess the damage. In a best-case scenario, we rule out ligament tearing and send you home with rest and icing instructions.

If, however, the ligament damage is greater, you’ll require a higher standard of care, such as immobilization, to ensure that the ankle heals properly. 

One of our primary treatment goals is to reduce your chances of complications down the road, such as chronic ankle instability, recurring sprains, and arthritis.

If you suspect you’ve sprained your ankle, contact William Schell, MD, at our New York City office, which is located on the Upper West Side at Columbus Circle.

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