“Hight Ankle Sprains”

Could Your Ankle Sprain Be More Serious Than You Think?

Did you know that there is another type of ankle sprain than the typical sprain most people know about, one that is more complex?

Syndesmotic ankle injuries, otherwise known as a “high ankle sprain,” occur when an excessive force is applied in an upward and outward direction to the foot and ankle. There are multiple ligaments that make up the 'syndesmotic complex' which keeps the two lower leg bones (the tibia and fibula) together.  Injuries to this complex have symptoms similar to other ankle injuries, such as swelling, bruising and pain. These injuries usually occur with more pain in front of the ankle, compared to the typical ankle sprain which usually presents with more outside ankle pain.

These injuries are more prevalent in contact sports with greater injury than the ‘standard’ ankle sprain.

High ankle sprains are initially treated similarly to other sprains, with resting, icing, compression, and elevation (also called RICE therapy).  However, this more significant type of sprain needs to be treated much more aggressively with immobilization in splints or boots in the least, and typically with a short period of non-weight bearing with crutches.

The majority of these high ankle sprains do improve with conservative treatment, but in some instances complete rupture of these ligaments leads to gapping and separation of the tibia and fibula. Arthritis can also develop following this injury if the ankle is destabilized in this manner.  In these instances, surgery is needed to stabilize the damaged tissue. Typical surgery includes insertion of a screw across the fibula and tibia. The screw is then removed in 2 – 3 months. Another procedure uses a suture button that crosses the two bones. The benefit of this technique is that the suture button does not need to be removed when the ligament is healed.

If you develop an ankle sprain whether minor or serious, be sure to have one of our podiatrists examine your foot for further damage.  Ankle sprains are hardly ever simple.  Some ankle sprains hide more serious injuries, and some sprains, like a high ankle sprain, may need to be treated a little differently than the typical sprain.


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