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How to tell the difference between a sprain and a broken ankle

Winter has arrived in Maryland, and so has inclement weather. Snow and ice pose a risk to drivers and pedestrians. Even a walk across a slippery grocery store parking lot can end with a fall on the ice.

When you fall, your first reaction is likely embarrassment, but then you notice pain in your ankle. It could be a sprain, or it may be broken. Unfortunately, the symptoms are strikingly similar.

Difference between a sprain and a fracture

According to WebMD, a sprain is when you tear or stretch a ligament past its limits. Ligaments help hold your bones and keep your joints stable. An ankle fracture occurs when you break at least one of the three bones in your ankle. Breaking one ankle bone may make it hard to diagnose as a fracture. Symptoms like swelling, bruising and being tender occur with both injuries. However, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine if your ankle is sprained or broken.

What noise did your ankle make?

If you sprained your ankle, there may have been no noise or a popping sound. When you break your ankle, there is usually a cracking sound.

Does your ankle look misshapen?

Swelling occurs with both injuries. However, if your ankle is bent at an unnatural angle, that is good indication you fractured it.

Are you in pain?

Surprisingly, you feel more pain with a sprain. A fracture will typically cause numbness or tingling in your ankle.

If there is pain, where is it?

Pain or tenderness directly over your ankle bone indicates a fracture. Pain in the soft part of your ankle more typically means a sprain has occurred.

After going these questions, you may still be unsure whether your ankle is sprained or fractured. If you remain uncertain, you should visit a doctor immediately. An untreated ankle fracture will start to heal on its own, but incorrectly. The doctor will likely have to rebreak it when it is discovered, and it may never heal quite properly. You could have permanent damage from your injury.

If you were injured while on someone else’s property, their negligence may have caused your injury. Serious injuries can require prolonged hospital stays and rehabilitation. All these expenses add up. However, if you think a property owner is responsible for your injuries, you can pursue legal action against them.

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