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How Is a Sprained Ankle Graded?

It’s easy to assume that all ankle sprains are created equal. After all, they all involve ligaments, right? That may be true, but these common injuries can cause varying amounts of tissue damage, including tearing.

As an experienced podiatrist and foot surgeon, John Jurcisin, DPM, specializes in diagnosing and treating ankle injuries at Precision Footcare in Midtown East, New York City. In this post, Dr. Jurcisin explains the damage that can come into play with an ankle sprain and how he outlines the best treatment strategy based on your specific injury.

Ankle sprain basics

We rely on our feet for a lot, so it should come as no surprise that ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries in the United States. These injuries involve your ligaments — the strong, fibrous tissues that connect your bones to other bones in your body. 

Your ankle joint contains three bones, and they’re held together by a complex network of ligaments and tendons. This intricate structure enables your ankle joint to bear up to three times your body weight while moving in all directions and providing stability to your skeleton at the same time. However, it also leaves it vulnerable to injury, especially sprains.

When you sprain your ankle, ligaments in your foot get stretched, strained, or torn. This can happen for numerous reasons, even from taking an awkward step. The most common causes of these sprains include:

It’s important to note that you can sustain severe damage during an injury that may seem minor. And, you may suffer intense pain, whether you have mild or severe ligament damage. 

Grading ankle injuries

Dr. Jurcisin relies on a three-tier grading system to determine the amount of ligament damage sustained during a sprain.

Grade 1

This is the most mild form of ankle sprain and describes microscopic tearing and slight stretching in the ligament fibers. Signs of a Grade 1 sprain typically include mild swelling and tenderness in the ankle.

Grade 2

If you have partial ligament tearing and abnormal looseness in your ankle joint, you could have a moderate or Grade 2 sprain. These ankle injuries display more swelling and tenderness around the ankle than a Grade 1 sprain.

Grade 3

This type of sprain describes the most severe ligament damage: a complete tear. When you have a Grade 3 sprain, it’s common to have significant swelling, tenderness, and joint instability.

To determine your ankle sprain grade, Dr. Jurcisin performs a comprehensive foot and ankle examination, which involves palpating the area and checking your range of motion. He may also order imaging screenings, such as X-rays, MRI scans, or ultrasounds to rule out broken bones.

Treating an ankle sprain

Dr. Jurcisin rarely recommends surgery for ankle sprains. That’s because, with the right treatment, even a complete tear can often heal without surgical intervention.

In most cases, ankle sprains respond to nonsurgical solutions, such as the following:

However, if your ankle sprain fails to respond to these approaches, or if you continue to experience instability in the joint, Dr. Jurcisin may recommend minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery to repair the ligament damage.

Did you sprain your ankle? Get the treatment you need by booking an appointment online or over the phone with Precision Footcare today.

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