If you spend any time watching professional sports, you have probably heard the term “high ankle sprain.” But how is this different than a low ankle sprain? To understand the difference, you must understand the anatomy of the ankle. There are numerous ligaments near the ankle that provide stability. The ligaments that connect directly to the foot are involved with a low ankle sprain. The 3 ligaments on the outside of the ankle are the ligaments frequently injured. These ligaments connect from the fibula (lower leg bone) to either the talus or calcaneus (bones in the foot). When you roll your ankle, especially when the outside of your foot moves towards the ground, these ligaments become stretched or damaged and result in a low ankle sprain.
With a high ankle sprain, a different type of injury occurs at a different area of the foot. When a forceful rotation occurs through the foot and ankle or when the ankle quickly bends upwards, the fibula and tibia (lower leg bones) begin to separate. With separation, the syndesmosis (tissue connecting the fibula and tibia) and ligaments connecting the lower leg bones become injured.
After a high ankle sprain, your physician will order imaging to rule out any other damage to the ankle including fractures or tears in ligaments. Your physician may advise you to be non-weightbearing for some time to allow healing and reduce stress at the injured area. In some instances, surgery may be recommended to stabilize the injured area. Once a fracture is ruled out, your physician will recommend physical therapy to help with: · Pain reduction and decreasing swelling · Restoration of mobility · Normalize walking pattern · Improve ankle strength · Increase balance · Resumption of sports related activities Recovery can take a little longer than a low ankle sprain due to the nature of the injury. On average, most people can perform sports related activities at 8-12 weeks after injury, shortly followed by return to sport. At DGA, we have the experience treating all types of ankle sprains and will work on getting your back to your sport as quickly as possible.