Ankle sprains are very common in children. It is a child athlete's most common injury. Sports injuries are the second leading cause of emergency room trips. Children are beginning their athletic careers as young as 3 and competitive sports as young as seven. With child athletes' getting younger, the risk for more injuries increases.
What Caused My Child's Sprained Ankle
Ankle sprains are caused by a sudden twisting of the ankle. It pushes the ankle past it's normal range of motion and causes the ligaments to over-stretch or tear. A sprained ankle is much different than a fractured or broken ankle. A break or fracture would mean that a bone is broken while a sprain refers to the ligaments.
Children can sprain their ankles from walking or regular free play, as well as, from sports. Ankle fractures are common in soccer, football and basketball although although sports may cause a child to sprain their ankle.
Is It Sprained or Fractured
Parents often worry about whether their child has ankle sprain vs a broken ankle. When a child sprains their ankle it will include pain, swelling and bruising. They might not be able to move the ankle as much as before the injury. A broken ankle will have many of the same symptoms, but a break will result in swelling and bruising that will not go away for more than a few days. It will most likely be extremely painful to walk on if it's broken.
How is a Sprained Ankle Treated
The first steps to treating a sprained ankle at home is to begin the RICE method:
You should begin by getting your child on the couch. Ice the injury in 15 minutes on, 30 minutes off increments. You can wrap your child's ankle in an elastic bandage. Make sure the bandage is tight but that your child can still feel their leg and toes. Lastly, raise the ankle above the heart.
When to See a Doctor
if your child cannot put any weight on their ankle immediately after the injury, you should see a doctor. While a sprain will hurt, a broken ankle will usually not tolerate any weight. Also, if the swelling or bruising is not improving after a day or two, you should have the ankle injury examined by a doctor.
You do not want to wait for the injury to improve if it doesn't seem to be getting better. You should never try to force your child to "walk it off" as this can worsen the injury. If the ankle seems to be getting better but your child complains that it hurts, begins to walk or run differently or they start to sit out of games or regular play, you should have the ankle checked by a doctor.
The Family Foot & Ankle Specialists Difference
Our team of doctors is experienced in ankle sprains in children. Our Piscataway and Hillsborough podiatry office have digital x-rays and ultrasound available in the office so you won't be sent to another office to get tested, you get immediate results in our office. We have evening and weekend appointments to accommodate busy school and work schedules and accept most insurance plans.