Difference Between Ankle Sprain and Fracture (With Table)

Our ankles play a very essential role in our locomotion, the structure itself is sturdy enough to balance our body weight. But sometimes, when we try to impress our high-school crush with a flying bicycle kick in the soccer field or try to beat the number one athlete with all we got, and our carelessness pushes our ankles to the edge and we end up injuring ourselves.

To prevent our injury from causing much more pain and disastrous aftermath, we must be able to understand if we sprained our ankle or did one of our 3 ankle bones snapped!

Ankle Sprain vs Fracture

The difference between an ankle sprain and an ankle fracture is that a sprain is caused when we happen to injure the ligaments present in our ankle joint but, a fracture is something more serious. A fracture means, either of the 3 ankle bones (Tibia, Fibula, and Talus) is broken or maybe on the brink of breaking. A hairline fracture on the other hand is a type of fracture that takes effect if immediate treatment is not done to the injured.

An ankle sprain is something we all have experienced at least once in our lives. The part where our foot meets our shin bone is called the ankle, and usually, we injure it if we miss-step on the stairs or run carelessly. A sprain is caused when a ligament is either injured or broken. A ligament injury can be spotted if the part starts to swell and intolerable pain is felt. But, if numbness and severe pain along with a blood clot is observed, clearly you have broken a bone or two.

So, if a numbness and shrill tickling is felt on that painful swollen ankle of yours, get ready for getting a plaster treatment because it’s an ankle fracture. A fracture occurs when the injury directly impacts the bone and causes the breakage either on the surface of the bone or a deep crack on a part of the bone. A fracture is a much more serious injury than a sprain and an immediate treatment is always required.

Comparison Table Between Ankle Sprain and Fracture

Parameters of comparisonAnkle SprainAnkle Fracture
CauseIt is caused when a ligament present in the ankle joint gets injured or torn. A ruptured ligament can cause temporary movement disability too.It is caused when one of the 3 ankle bones i.e: Tibia, Fibula or Talus is either broken or cracked on the surface.
Area of injuryJoint and the parts where the ligament is attached to the bones.On the surface of the bones.
SoundUsually occurs silently but sometimes a ‘popping’ sound is heard at the time of injury.A ‘cracking’ sound is heard at the time of injury followed by numbness and severe pain.
TypesLigament breakage, ligament rupture or stressed ligament.Traverse, oblique, spiral, hairline, comminuted and displaced fractures.
SymptomsThe pain and swelling occurs in the joint, and usually blood clotting is not extreme. The area affected feels soft and stepping feels difficult.Numbness and severe shrill pain is experienced. The swelling can sometimes be bluish because of excess blood clotting and even feather touches hurts on the bones.

What is Ankle Sprain?

An ankle sprain is a type of injury that occurs when we carelessly misstep. It occurs usually with a ‘pop’ sound and instantly we become unable to proceed with our stepping action.  The ankle joint is very strong and robust but sometimes the ligaments are stretched beyond their usual capacity and we experience a sharp pain followed by some swelling aka a sprain in the ankle joint.

Ligaments are elastic connective tissues present in our joints to smoothen the movements and mobility provided by joints. They connect bone to bone and hence, a sprain never affects a bone but the part of the bone that is connected to a neighboring ligament. A sprain can either cause the breakage of these fibrous tissues or the excessive stress on them causes immense pain..

 Doctors suggest RICE (Rest, ice, compression, and elevation)along with diclofenac pain killers for sprains as well as hair-line fractures.  A moderate sprain usually lasts not more than two weeks and the injury gets well without causing any major after-effects.

What is Ankle Fracture?

Just like a sprain, an ankle fracture is an injury that affects our ankle most painfully. An ankle fracture occurs when we accidentally hit or stress our ankle bones to such an extent when the bone starts cracking or gets snapped.  A fracture is sometimes so serious that one can lose the ability to walk. Malleolus is the commonest part of the ankle that usually ends up being fractured.

Treating a fracture immediately can reduce the risk of complete bone displacement. Intense pain on the surface of the bone as well as severe swelling is observed on the injured part. Blood clotting and numbness also occur in a fracture, and to reduce the primary effects of an ankle fracture it is prescribed to use ice packs and reduce the swelling.

An immediate x-ray is a must to monitor the damage and type of fracture that has happened to your ankle. Hair-line ankle fractures are usually treated with a month-long plastering and rest. However, an oblique displaced fracture and green-stick fractures in the ankle are treated with Intramedullary (IM) rods. These aids help in the stabilization of the fracture and faster bone recovery.

Main Differences Between Ankle Sprain and Fracture

  1. An ankle sprain is caused when the ligaments of the ankle are injured or torn, whereas an ankle fracture occurs when the ankle bones are broken or cracked.
  2. Ankle sprain is common and non-lethal but an ankle fracture requires immediate medical attention.
  3. Sprain causes ‘pop’ sound where as fracture causes a ‘cracking’ sound
  4. An ankle sprain can cause severe pain but a fracture causes numbness and extreme swelling in the ankle region.
  5. An ankle sprain occurs in the joint but a fracture takes place precisely on the bones.

Conclusion

A sprain or a fracture in the ankle surely causes a lot of distress and discomfort on the injured, but both of the injuries aren’t permanent and usually, get cured with good treatment and sufficient rest.

A sprain is not something serious, but a fracture sure is. Treating a sprain is easy and can be done using easy DIY treatments like RICE but, treating a fracture (may it be a hairline, or a displaced fracture) is the job of a trained medical assistant. However, the treatments of both injuries are similar and not life-threatening. An ankle injury demands more rest than drug treatments.

References

  1. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/fractures-broken-bones/
  2. https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/picture-of-the-ankle
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