Ankle sprains are one of the most common lower body injuries, with tens of thousands of Americans spraining their ankle each day. Most of these sprains involve damage to the anterior talofibular ligament on the outer side of your ankle, which acts as a primary stabilizer for the ankle joint. Others suffer a less common but oftentimes more severe type of ankle sprain called a high ankle sprain.

A high ankle sprain involves an injury to a different set of ligaments in the ankle. During a high ankle sprain, the ligaments located above the ankle joint are damaged. These ligaments are nestled between the tibia and fibula and help to form the syndesmosis. Your syndesmosis acts as a shock absorber when you move, so damage to these ligaments can lead to an unstable ankle and pain with every step you take. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at how high ankle sprains are diagnosed and treated.

Causes And Symptoms Of A High Ankle Sprain

A high ankle sprain typically occurs when a person’s foot is planted and an external force causes the ankle to be pushed inward as the foot is rotated outward. When this type of force is exerted on the foot, the talus bone ends up opening the connection between the tibia and fibula, causing damage to the connective ligaments in this area. These types of injuries are more common in high-impact sports, like football, soccer and lacrosse, but they can also occur as a result of a fall or a car accident.

Symptoms of a high ankle sprain are somewhat similar to a standard ankle sprain, but they also vary a bit since different ligaments are affected. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain and discomfort that radiates up from the top of your ankle
  • Pain when walking or pushing off the foot
  • Difficulty bearing weight
  • Mild swelling and bruising above the ankle joint

Because swelling and bruising tends to be more mild in this type of ankle sprain compared to a standard ankle sprain, athletes and coaches may underestimate the severity of the sprain and attempt to keep playing through the injury. This can lead to even more ligament damage and a prolonged recovery.

Diagnosing And Treating High Ankle Sprains

If you are dealing with any of the above symptoms, or you have reason to suspect that you suffered a high ankle sprain, consult with your primary care physician, or better yet, sync up with a foot and ankle specialist like Dr. McDonald. He’ll begin by asking about your symptoms and conducting a physical exam. During the physical exam, he may maneuver your foot or ask you to perform some movements to see if they can be achieved or if they cause discomfort. A foot specialist can typically diagnose a high ankle sprain by talking with the patient and conducting a physical exam, but they may order some imaging tests to rule out additional problems like a fracture or compartment syndrome.

The standard treatment for high ankle sprains includes a combination of RICE, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, controlled physical therapy exercises and activity avoidance for a short period of time. Resting the area and avoiding athletic activity is very helpful in the short term, as is icing, compression and elevation to help control swelling and increase function at the joint. Unless the ligament has been completely torn, most patients can avoid surgery for a high ankle sprain, although recovery typically takes a little bit longer than a standard sprain. RICE protocols coupled with a few weeks of physical therapy can typically help patients fully recover within 4-6 weeks, although some patients may experience symptoms for 2-3 months or longer.

If you’re dealing with a standard or high ankle sprain, don’t just assume symptoms will eventually subside. If you don’t actively help these ligaments heal and become stronger, the ankle joint may remain unstable and leave you susceptible to future ankle injuries. Instead, connect with a specialist like Dr. McDonald and return to athletic activity with full confidence in your ankle. For more information, or for help with your foot or ankle injury, reach out to Dr. McDonald and his team today at (860) 244-8889.

No Comments

Post A Comment