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How to Care for Your Child's Ankle Injury

How to Care for Your Child's Ankle Injury

Did you know ankle injuries are one of the most common reasons people visit emergency rooms, urgent care centers, and orthopedists? Unfortunately, children and teens aren’t immune to this prevalent injury.

When your child injures their ankle, it’s important to seek treatment from a provider who understands children’s growing bones and joints. At OasisMD Lifestyle Healthcare with offices in San Diego, Encinitas, and Temecula, California, our pediatric orthopedists, David Chao, MD, and Matthew Gargulinski, DO, specialize in diagnosing and treating different types of pediatric ankle injuries.

Understanding pediatric ankle injuries

Our ankles are composed of three major bones held together by ligaments and tendons that help you move. This complex joint is finicky — especially in children who have anatomical differences that make ankle injuries more common in kids. 

Children have immature bones with porous canals. This makes their ankles more vulnerable to injuries related to force, like stress fractures and buckle fractures. 

And growth plates in growing children means weaker bones and ligaments, making sprains and strains a common occurrence. Growth plates, areas of cartilage that harden to bone when your child stops growing, are also susceptible to damage. 

Together, this means children are more prone to ankle injuries than adults. Even minor joint displacements caused by rolling or twisting their ankle can mean a debilitating ankle injury.

Some of the most common pediatric ankle injuries are ankle strains, sprains, and fractures. When your child injures the muscles or tendons that attach their muscles to their bones, they have an ankle strain

When your child injures their ankle ligaments, they may be diagnosed with an ankle sprain. Ankle sprains vary in severity, ranging from least severe (Grade I) to the most severe (Grade III).

Children also may experience ankle fractures (broken bones). Pediatric ankle fractures frequently involve the growth plates as these plates are the last pieces of bone to harden, making them vulnerable to injuries, like fractures.

Caring for your child’s ankle injury

To best care for your child’s ankle injury, it’s essential you understand what type of ankle injury your child has. It can be challenging to know whether your child has a strain, sprain, or fracture, as they may all cause swelling and pain, depending on the severity of the injury. 

It’s best to take your child to a pediatric orthopedist, like the team at OasisMD Lifestyle Healthcare, for an evaluation, as not seeking prompt treatment for the injury may exacerbate the injury and even cause lasting damage. 

Your OasisMD Lifestyle Healthcare provider reviews your child’s medical history, asks how the injury happened, and carefully examines your child’s ankle. Depending on your child’s symptoms and physical exam, they may order an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI to confirm or rule out a diagnosis. 

Ankle strains and sprains

It’s important to treat ankle strains and sprains seriously. When not treated, these injuries may affect your child’s ability to stand and walk normally later, and their risk of future ankle injuries increases. 

When an ankle injury first occurs, use the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) strategy:

Talk to your provider about over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicine to help manage any discomfort. 

Be sure to follow your OasisMD Lifestyle Healthcare provider’s specific instructions, as care for ankle strains and sprains varies based on the severity of the injury. 

In some cases, children may require surgical intervention to repair an injured muscle, tendon, or ligament.

Ankle fractures

Caring for a pediatric ankle fracture depends on the location of the injury, whether the growth plate is injured, the degree of injury, the position of their foot at the time of the injury, the type of force that caused the injury, and whether any bone fragments have been displaced. 

Your OasisMD Lifestyle Healthcare provider recommends the right treatment for your child’s ankle fracture. Some ankle fractures may require surgery. You can help care for your child’s injury by helping them follow their treatment protocol. 

Most ankle injuries in children heal in about four to six weeks, but full recovery typically takes longer. Help your child by making sure they go to physical therapy if prescribed to help strengthen their flexibility and muscles, so they can return to normal activities faster. 

If your child sustains an ankle injury, take them to the pediatric orthopedic specialists at OasisMD Lifestyle Healthcare for expert help. Schedule an appointment at the San Diego, Temecula, or Encinitas, California, office nearest you. 

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