What is a high ankle sprain? Why is it different from regular sprains?

by Courtney Gittins

ankle sprain A high ankle sprain is also referred to as a syndesmotic sprain. They are called high ankle sprains because the ligaments injured are located above the ankle rather than the more common sprained ankle where the ligaments are outside the ankle. The purpose of these ligaments or syndesmosis are to connect the tibia to the fibula. Only 10% of all ankle sprains turn out to be high ankle sprains.

High ankle sprains most commonly occur from the sudden twisting motion. This happens most frequently in contact and cutting sports. Most patients will say the pain radiates up the leg, starting in the ankle. The pain is typically worse with cutting or twisting motions that are similar to what caused the injury.

This injury is initially treated with the same protocol as a common ankle sprain: rest, ice compression, and elevation. The rest needs to be twice as long for this type of sprain because the syndesmosis is so vulnerable. However if the ligament is severely sprained, a screw can be placed between the tibia and fibula to hold the two bones together while the ligament heals.

Athletes will most commonly return to play in 6 weeks however 50% will experience symptoms for up to 6 months.

You should contact an orthopedic specialist if you…

  • Suspect a broken bone
  • Have consistent pain
  • Hear an immediate popping sound
  • Have difficulty using your ankle when walking

NEED A REFERRAL? OrthoNeuro has 4 orthopedic surgeons that treat high ankle sprains.

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