A ligament sprain is a stretch or tear in the bands of tissue that connect our bones at the joints. Ligaments stabilize and support the body’s joints. Sprains typically happen when the ankle is twisted or rolled to the point of overstretching or rupturing the ligaments.
The ankle is a hinge joint between the leg and the foot that allows up and down movement. The bones of the leg (tibia and fibula) form a slot, and the talus bone of the foot fits between them.
Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that hold the talus bone to the other two bones. Each ligament is made of many fibers of a material called collagen, which is extremely strong.
The ligament on the outside of the ankle, called the lateral ligament, is made up of three separate bands: one at the front, one in the middle, and one at the back. The front and middle bands are the ligaments injured in a sprain. Most ligament sprains are caused by the foot twisting inwards. All of the body’s weight is then placed on the lateral ankle ligaments. The fibers of the ankle stretch or tear in a sprain.
Pain, bruising, swelling, and inflammation are all common symptoms of a sprain. A severe sprain can cause a ligament to tear completely or separate from the bone, producing excruciating pain at the moment of injury and leaving the joint non-functional.
Rest, ice, compression, and elevation will usually help minimize the damage. Mild sprains and tears may require rehabilitation exercises, but a more severe sprain or tear may require surgery or immobilization, followed by a period of physical therapy.