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What is a High Ankle Sprain?

A high ankle sprain, also known as a syndesmotic sprain, is a specific type of ankle injury that affects the ligaments connecting the tibia and fibula bones in the lower leg. This condition is characterized by pain, swelling, and limited mobility in the ankle joint. Unlike traditional ankle sprains, high ankle sprains involve damage to the syndesmotic ligaments that hold the two leg bones together above the ankle.

Causes of High Ankle Sprain

High ankle sprains are often the result of sudden twisting or rotating movements of the ankle joint. Sports activities such as football, soccer, and skiing are common scenarios where these injuries occur. The injury mechanism typically involves external rotation of the foot and excessive dorsiflexion of the ankle, which stresses and damages the syndesmotic ligaments.

Symptoms of High Ankle Sprain

Some of the important symptoms of high ankle sprain include:

  • Pain above the ankle joint, especially when bearing weight or walking
  • Swelling and bruising around the ankle
  • Difficulty moving or rotating the ankle
  • Tenderness along the syndesmotic ligaments
  • Sometimes, there is a noticeable gap or space between the tibia and fibula bones

Diagnosis of High Ankle Sprain

A thorough physical examination by your healthcare provider will be performed and medical history will be noted. Further diagnostic tests to confirm a high ankle sprain include X-rays, ultrasound, or MRI scans. These help your provider confirm the extent of the injury, especially when there is suspicion of a more severe sprain or ligament tear.

Treatment of High Ankle Sprain

The treatment of a high ankle sprain varies depending on the severity of the injury. It can include:

  • Rest and Immobilization: For mild sprains, rest and avoiding activities that stress the ankle are often sufficient. Immobilization with a walking boot or ankle brace may be recommended to stabilize the joint.
  • Ice and Elevation: Applying ice to the affected area and elevating the leg can help reduce pain and swelling.
  • Physical Therapy: Rehabilitation exercises are crucial for regaining strength and mobility. They may include range of motion exercises and strengthening exercises for the ankle and lower leg muscles.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed to manage pain and inflammation.
  • Surgery: Surgery may be required to repair or reconstruct damaged ligaments. This is typically reserved for cases with a significant ligament tear or instability of the ankle joint.

Recovery of High Ankle Sprain

The recovery time for a high ankle sprain can vary, with mild sprains healing in a few weeks, while more severe cases taking several months. It's essential to follow the guidance of your healthcare professional, including any physical therapy or rehabilitation exercises, to ensure a full recovery and prevent long-term joint instability. Timely and appropriate management is essential to ensure a full recovery and prevent long-term complications.

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