Fracture or Sprain?

By Gary N. Friedlander DPM, FACFAS and Jay C. Larson DPM
June 04, 2015
Category: Foot Problems

Our kids seem to be involved in every activity from sports to drama club. What if your child came home from practice or school one day complaining of ankle pain from an injury of some sort? The question never fails to arise, should I bring him or her to the doctor to see if it’s broken? You may think, I don’t want to bring them in if it is just a sprain, but I want to make sure it is not broken.  The following information may help you differentiate between ankle sprains versus ankle fractures, what you can do to help ease the pain and what may help the healing process.

An ankle sprain is a tear or a strain to the ligaments of the ankle joint. A ligament is a band connective tissue that connects bone to bone. After a sprain, the joint may swell and bruise. Depending on the severity of the sprain, the ankle may swell only a little or a significant amount.

An ankle fracture is a break or crack in the bone of the lower leg or ankle joint. Like a sprain, the joint will swell and bruise. The joint will be immediately and severely painful and may look deformed. Tenderness to touch the joint is often reported. The person may not be able to bear any weight on the affected leg as well.

So when should you see your doctor? If your child has any of the following symptoms, it is important to see your doctor:

  • If the ankle, leg or foot looks deformed in anyway

  • Severe pain, or unable to move the ankle

  • If the foot is pale or cool

  • Unable to tolerate weight

  • If the injury is not improving after three days

At home treatments for ankle sprains start with rest. It is important to take time off of the ankle to allow proper healing. Icing and compression to the injury will also decrease swelling. It is important not to apply the compress too tight, but enough to slow the swelling. Finally, elevating will also help prevent pooling of fluid at the injury site.

Remember, if you suspect a fracture, or just are not sure, it is important to bring your child to see a doctor. Clinical expertise along with imaging techniques can be used to rule out a serious ankle injury. If you notice any changes in you or your child’s foot health, please consider making an appointment with Dr. Jay C. Larson at Sole Foot and Ankle Specialists in Glendale, Arizona.

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