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What are the Different Sprained Ankle Grades?

By April S. Kenyon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Sprained ankle grades are used to describe the severity of a sprain. The extent of damage done to the ligaments in the ankle is the primary factor in determining sprained ankle grades. There are three different grades of ankle sprains: Grades I, II, and III. A grade I sprain is the least severe, while a grade III ankle sprain is indicative of a significantly damaged ligament. Second degree ankle sprains fall between these two and denote a partial ripping of the ligament.

First degree sprained ankle grades are the most common and least serious of the ankle injuries. This grade indicates that one or more of the three ligaments in the ankle have been stretched, but not torn. An individual with a grade I ankle injury generally experiences some pain and swelling. The majority of patients who suffer a grade I injury are capable of walking, though they may not be able to run or put excessive pressure on the injured ankle.

Second degree sprained ankle grades indicate that one or more of the ligaments have been partially torn. Individuals with a grade II ankle sprain typically experience significantly more bruising and swelling than someone with a grade I injury. The severe bruising is caused by bleeding beneath the skin. Most patients with a second degree sprained ankle are capable of walking only a few steps at a time without the assistance of crutches.

Third degree sprained ankle grades are the most severe and usually require the most time to heal. A grade III ankle sprain indicates a complete tearing of one or more ligaments in the ankle. Patients generally experience significant bruising as well as severe pain and swelling. Bruising generally travels down the ankle to the toes within a couple of days after the injury has occurred. Individuals with a grade III sprain should not place any pressure on the injured ankle.

Anyone who experiences a sprained ankle should immediately apply compression and an ice pack to the ankle and elevate the foot. If significant pain and swelling present, medical attention should be sought. Symptoms that indicate the ankle injury may need to be treated by a physician include pain that extends above the ankle or down the foot, considerable swelling, and an inability to put pressure on the ankle. If any of these symptoms do not improve within a couple of days, medical attention may be required.

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Discussion Comments
By Talentryto — On Sep 18, 2014

@spotiche5- I think that is quite possible, because your friend might have caused a mild ankle injury to turn into a torn ligament by doing activities that she shouldn't have been doing while she was healing. To find out for sure if she now has a grade III ankle sprain, she should see her doctor as soon as possible. She should also stay off her feet until she gets a new diagnosis.

By Spotiche5 — On Sep 18, 2014

Is it ever possible to go from having a grade II ankle sprain to a grade III? My best friend sprained her ankle, and was told it was a grade II. However, her symptoms have progressed to those that are common with a grade III sprain. I think she has been overdoing it by putting too much weight on her injured ankle.

By Raynbow — On Sep 17, 2014

Though having a grade for an ankle sprain is helpful, it's more important to base your activities on how your ankle feels as it heals.

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