Now that NFL football is back, I’m sure many of us will be checking in our favorite teams to see who has suffered injuries that will affect their team’s play through the season. What is the difference between a high ankle sprain and a regular ankle sprain.
Well the terminology doesn’t note how severe a lower leg injury is, but most of us at some point in our lives have had an ankle sprain. This happens in basketball often when a player lands awkwardly on another’s foot. When the foot is put at an angle respective to the lower leg, it can stretch the anterior talofibular ligament (aka the ATFL). Sprains are graded by intensity, swelling, and joint dysfunction/derangement from 1-4 with 3 being a completely torn ligament and 4 being a possible surgical case.
A high ankle sprain involves a different muscular group altogether and though a high ankle sprain and an ATFL ankle sprain may have occurred on the same incident, the high ankle sprain can lead to chronic issues that can decrease performance for athletes and usually takes longer to heal with moe residual complications following.
Whereas normal ATFL sprains occur near the lateral malleolus (that bony bump on the outside of the ankle) a high ankle sprain may present with pain that covers a region beginning with the lower leg to just below the knee. The pain often feels as if it is deep, dull and achy. A high ankle sprain stretches the syndesmosis (thick musculoligamentous structures that holds the tibula and fibula together. These kind of injuries usually take about 2-3 weeks longer to heal because the syndesmosis doesn’t get as good blood circulation as say a muscle like the hamstring.
Though the treatment is somewhat akin to that of an ATFL ankle sprain, the important thing is not too push to return to competetive sports becuase a re-injury can lead to chronic high ankle sprains and it will be harder for the ligamentous tear to heal fully leading to instability, a dreaded word that in an MD’s office may be followed by surgical options.