What is a High Ankle Sprain & How Do You Treat It?

by | Mar 22, 2023 | Foot & Ankle Treatment, Sports Medicine

A high ankle sprain, also known as a syndesmotic ankle sprain, is a specific type of ankle sprain that occurs when the ligaments that connect the tibia and fibula bones in the lower leg are injured. Here is an overview of the diagnosis, risk of injury, mechanism of injury, workup, conservative treatment, and surgical treatment of a high ankle sprain:

A healthcare provider can diagnose a high ankle sprain by examining the ankle and asking questions about the injury. Imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI, may be ordered to rule out a fracture or other damage.

Risk of Injury:
High ankle sprains are less common than standard ankle sprains and tend to be more severe. Athletes who participate in sports that involve sudden changes in direction or jumping, such as football or basketball, are at higher risk for high ankle sprains.

Mechanism of Injury:
High ankle sprains typically occur when the ankle is twisted forcefully or the foot is planted and the lower leg rotates. This can happen when an athlete lands awkwardly, steps in a hole, or collides with another player.

To diagnose a high ankle sprain, a healthcare provider will typically examine the ankle, ask questions about the injury, and may order imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI, to rule out a fracture or other damage.

Conservative Treatment:
Conservative treatment options for a high ankle sprain include:

  • Rest: Staying off the injured ankle as much as possible to allow for healing.
  • Ice: Apply ice to the ankle to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Compression: Wrapping the ankle in a compression bandage to provide support and reduce swelling.
  • Elevation: Elevating the ankle above heart level to reduce swelling.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, may help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy: Depending on the severity of the injury, physical therapy may be recommended to help restore range of motion and strength to the ankle.

Surgical Treatment:
In severe cases of high ankle sprains, surgery may be necessary. Surgery typically involves using screws or other hardware to stabilize the bones and ligaments in the ankle and may require a prolonged recovery period.

In conclusion, a high ankle sprain is a specific type of ankle sprain that is less common but tends to be more severe than a standard ankle sprain. A healthcare provider can diagnose a high ankle sprain through a physical examination and potentially imaging tests, and treatment options include conservative measures such as rest, ice, compression, elevation, medication, and physical therapy, as well as surgical intervention in severe cases. Proper treatment can help reduce the risk of complications and improve recovery.