Last month, I saw a doctor for a sprained ankle. I was told it was a second-degree sprain of the ligaments on the outside of my ankle. No X-ray or other test was performed. How does the doctor know for sure the extent of the injury?

Physicians rely on various tests to examine injured joints. There are several tests for the ankle to check the severity of the sprain. These are performed in the doctor's office and do not require X-ray or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).

Some research shows that these hands-on tests are not as reliable as once thought. A true ankle assessment would require additional imaging studies such as X-rays taken while the ankle is angled in various positions (stress radiographs). These additional tests provide a more valid means of classifying ligament damage.