The dreaded High Ankle Sprain
High ankle sprains occur when there is damage to the ligaments or soft tissue membrane that connect the tibia to the fibula (the bones that make up the lower leg). These high ankle ligaments, known as the syndesmosis, connect the two ankle bones together and allow some rotation. The syndesmosis is made up of two ligaments (tibiofibular ligaments) and an interosseous membrane.
High ankle sprains are less common than a traditional ankle sprain and generally take longer to recover.
These type of sprains usually occur with a rotational or twisting force, often when the foot is externally rotated (turned towards the outside with respect to the leg). The outward twisting motion of the ankle will cause the two bones to pull away from each other and tear the ligaments that connect them. Another way this injury occurs is if the ankle is forced into dorsiflexion, such as if the foot is planted and the person falls forward, splaying the two bones apart.
Recovery from these high ankle sprains takes a lot longer than your typical ankle sprain. They may take 8 weeks to 6 months. The severity of the injury and if there is a separation between the bones will determine what type of treatment is needed. This may vary from conservative physiotherapy treatment, immobilisation in a walking boot or surgery to assist the healing of the ligaments and maintain the correct position of the tibia and fibula with respect to each other.
Early detection of these high ankle injuries is important to ensure these nasty injuries are managed properly.