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How to Treat Ankle Sprains in Children

As a soccer player, Katie twisted her ankle all the time. She was always told to walk it off and get back in the game, but one day the pain was too much. She could no longer walk it off and continue playing. Her ankle began to swell and bruise and she was unable to stand or walk on it.

Children's Sports Injury, Pediatric Foot & Ankle, Gilbert AZAfter the game, her parents took her to the doctor. Much to their dismay, the doctor informed Katie that she had a grade 2 ankle sprain and would have to sit out for the rest of the season.

Does this scenario sound familiar? Do you tell your children to just walk it off? Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries in kids—they’re also the most under-treated. Don’t let your child’s mild ankle sprain turn into a lifetime of chronic pain and injury.

How serious is a sprained ankle?

When it comes to ankle sprains, we break them down into 3 grades:

  • A grade 1 sprain is considered mild. The ligaments in the ankle are only slightly stretched, but the joint is marked by swelling and soreness.
  • A grade 2 sprain is a bit more intense. A small tear or two are present in the ligament that loosen the ankle joint. The ankle will be swollen and your child will feel pain when putting weight on the injured leg.
  • A grade 3 sprain is severe. With a severe ankle sprain, the ligament holding the ankle joint in place has been completely torn. The injury is marked by severe pain and swelling. The ankle will be very weak and your child will not be able to bear any weight on the foot at all.

Don’t just let them walk it off. If your child has sprained an ankle, they should stop playing immediately. If they continue to play the ligament will continue to stretch and tear and the chance for repeat sprains becomes greater. Chronic ankle sprains can cause pain for months, or even years, after the initial trauma.

How is an ankle sprain treated?

If your child has sprained their ankle, give us a call at (480) 497-3946. We would be happy to discuss their pain and symptoms. We may even ask to schedule an appointment for a closer examination. For grades 1 and 2, we offer an at-home treatment plan:

  • Rest the ankle. Avoid putting weight on the foot, especially for the first week or so. Limit walking by using crutches or a scooter.
  • Elevate the joint. Keep your ankle above your heart. This means that you should lay down with your foot propped up on a pillow or stool.
  • Apply ice. Ice will combat swelling. Ice the ankle for 15-20 minutes every 3-4 hours for the first couple of days. Be sure to wrap the ice pack in a towel to avoid direct contact with the skin.
  • Apply pressure. An Ace bandage or compression wrap will also help to keep the swelling down, as well limit your range of motion. Wrap the ankle at a 90-degree angle.
  • If the pain becomes too much, we recommend using an anti-inflammatory drug like Ibuprofen.

If the ankle sprain is more severe, it will require complete immobilization by cast or boot. These methods will ensure that the ligament has enough time to heal before it is used again. In rare cases, surgery may be needed.

Teach your children to play responsibly and help them reduce their risk for injury. Caution them to warm up before playing sports or running with stretches, provide them with high-top shoes that are snug around the ankle, and encourage rest when they are tired to avoid fatigued muscles. With the proper attention and care, your child will be back on their feet in no time. If you have any questions, please give the team at Pediatric Foot & Ankle a call right away at (480) 497-3946, or contact us. We’re glad to help and love to see your children succeed.

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All content on PediatricFootAnkle.com is written by or collaborated with Dr. Mikkel Jarman and meets our strict editorial guidelines which include fact checking and peer review.

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