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Ankle injuries are often thought of as sports injuries. But you don’t have to be an athlete or even a “weekend warrior” to turn your ankle and hurt it. Something as simple as walking on an uneven surface can cause a painful, debilitating sprain.
Ankle injuries are defined by the kind of tissue — bone, ligament, or tendon — that’s damaged. The ankle is where three bones meet — the tibia and fibula from your leg and the talus from your foot. These are held together at the ankle joint by ligaments, which are elastic bands of connective tissue. These keep the bones in place while stretching to permit normal motion. There are also muscles and tendons that protect the ankle joint, do the work of making the foot move, and help hold the joint in place.
A fracture occurs when there is a break in one or more of the bones. A sprain is the term that describes damage to ligaments when they are stretched beyond their normal range of motion. A sprain can range from microscopic tears in the fibers that comprise the ligament (Grade I) to complete tears or ruptures of the ligament (Grade III). A strain refers to damage done to muscles and tendons, which connect muscles to bones, as a result of being pulled or stretched too far. The most commonly sprained ligament in the ankle is the Anterior TaloFibular Ligament (ATFL) and is cause by an eversion injury.
Muscle strains are a common component of an ankle sprain. There are two tendons at the ankle that stabilize the ankle and foot and protect them from sprains. These are the peroneal tendons. They can become inflamed as a result of overuse or trauma. The inflammation is called tendonitis. They can also tear, rupture, or slip out of place.