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ankle ligament

The 3 Most Common Symptoms of a Torn Ankle Ligament (And What You Can Do About Them)

Almost all of us at some point in our lives have missed a stair, slipped on ice or just rolled our ankle and felt the pain of a sprained ankle. When the ankle is over rotated, the ligaments of the ankle can become stretched which is what causes the pain and swelling associated with an ankle sprain. However, many people are unsure of the severity of the sprain or if significant damage occurs. It is therefore very important to understand how the severity of the injury plays a role in the treatment and potential recovery.

Sprained ligaments are ligaments that have been abnormally stretched. Ankle sprains classified as mild to moderate indicate sprained ligaments. These would be considered a Grade I ankle injury/sprain.

Torn ligaments are those that have been partially or fully torn. It’s confusing, but ankle sprains that are classified as moderate to severe indicate that ligaments have been torn—a serious injury. These injuries would be classified as Grade II (partial tear) and Grade III (full tear) injury.

The three most common signs of torn ligaments are:

  1. Pain.   The first symptom is pain immediately following the injury. The amount of pain alone is not always enough to diagnose a tear, but it’s a clear-cut sign that a tear might have occurred. If a person has experienced an ankle injury in the past, they can compare pain levels to get a feel for how severe their current injury is.


  1. Swelling and bruising.   Because the foot and ankle bear most of the body’s weight, swelling and bruising always occur following an injury. The degree to which swelling and bruising occur depends on the individual and severity of the injury.


  1. Instability.    A surefire way to tell if a ligament has been torn is to assess the degree of instability. Severe lack of stability, balance, and ability to bear weight are often signs that a ligament has been torn. Your doctor can test the stability of the ankle with several physical exam maneuvers.

If you have any of the symptoms above, it is best to seek the expertise of an orthopedic or sports medicine specialist to determine the severity of the injury and develop an appropriate treatment plan.  

In most cases, these injuries can be managed with rest, ice and a brace. When these injuries are not treated properly or fail to heal, they can lead to further damage to the ligament and possibly require surgical correction.

At The Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine (OSM) Center we utilize the collective skills of our exceptional providers to deliver the most complete musculoskeletal care available. From your first appointment, you are cared for by a team specifically built based on the best treatment for your condition. If surgery is necessary, you will be paired with an OSM surgeon who has the expertise and experience in your specific condition. Our surgeons use the latest minimally invasive techniques where appropriate to ensure fast recovery.  Contact us today to schedule a consult.