High Ankle Sprain

If you’ve ever played soccer, football, basketball or hockey, you’re probably familiar with a high ankle sprain. It’s a painful injury that can be devastating. The careers of many pro athletes have been ended by such sprains. For ordinary people, they can be extremely destructive because a person with one is often unable to engage in normal activities.

A high ankle sprain is just what it sounds like – an injury to the upper part of the ankle. Specifically, it is an injury to the large ligament that holds the ankle to the two bones of the lower leg. It is easy to see how this kind of injury can be so disabling and painful. It affects one of the most used parts of the leg. A person with it has trouble exercising and engaging in day-to-day activities such as walking. This injury is often called a syndesmotic ankle sprain because the formal name for the ankle injured is the syndesmotic ligament.

There are two kinds of high ankle sprain: stable and unstable. A stable high sprain is fairly easy to treat and will heal. An unstable high ankle sprain will usually require professional medical treatment including physical therapy and sometimes surgery.

High sprains are very serious injuries that may require several months or longer to recover from. They should always be taken seriously because such sprains can lead to permanent disability.

What Causes High Ankle Sprains?

The usual cause of a high ankle sprain is the twisting out of the ankle which often occurs in very physical sports such as wrestling, soccer and football. They also occur in running and sometimes in baseball especially when batters are running for home plate.

Even though these sprains are most common in athletes, anybody can get one. Average people sometimes get them when they engage in running or other physical movement. Persons who are normally physically inactive but suddenly get active can be very vulnerable to this kind of injury. A big problem is that people with high ankle sprains often underestimate the injury.


Many athletes destroy their careers because they keep playing with such an injury. Average people often cripple themselves because they return to normal everyday activities such as walking and driving a car and injure themselves even more seriously.



Even many physicians can have a hard time diagnosing this kind of injury. Persons who think that they might have one should go to a sports medicine doctor, a physical therapist, a chiropractor or an orthopedic surgeon. In addition to professional diagnosis, a CT (computed tomography) scan is often needed for a proper diagnosis of this kind of injury.

Sports teams keep professional trainers on the payroll in order to diagnose this kind of injury. If you live in the United States, your health insurance company should pay for physical therapy and a sports medicine doctor. You should be able to find these professionals in most large cities.

 A special X-ray or MRI called a stress fracture is often done to tell how serious the problem is. Stress fractures are necessary because surgery could be needed in extreme cases.

Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion when you’re dealing with this kind of injury. Even if your regular doctor or somebody at the emergency room tells you it will be alright, it might be a good idea to consult an orthopedic surgeon or sports medicine doctor about it. You should definitely get a second opinion if the injury doesn’t go away or starts getting worse.

You should also demand to see a specialist such as an orthopedic surgeon or a podiatrist if you have this kind of injury. Most doctors will give you a referral to one if you ask.

Symptoms of High Ankle Sprain

The most common symptom of a high ankle sprain is pain when a person is walking particularly when they turn their foot outward. You may also feel pain when the calf is squeezed.

Another common symptom is that sitting and activities such as driving a car suddenly become very painful and uncomfortable. Some people may experience pain when they sleep or perform certain kinds of exercise.

Swelling can be a symptom of this kind of ankle injury. Something to realize is that you may not notice the swelling because it could be inside the ankle itself.

The symptoms are often those of other ankle injuries. One possible sign of this kind of ankle injury is ankle pain that doesn’t go away or gets worse. Anybody who is suffering a serious ankle pain that doesn’t go away after a few days should definitely see a sports medicine professional about it.

Treatment of High Ankle Sprain

The usual treatment of high ankle sprain is something called RICE. This is an acronym that stands for:





This is used for the most common injuries and some of these you can do yourself.

The first thing you should do if you have an ankle sprain is to get plenty of rest. Stop your normal exercise routine and limit the amount that you walk. Cease activities such as gardening and housework that could put a lot of strain upon it. You should also limit your driving or switch to driving a vehicle with an automatic transmission to ease strain.

Try working at home if it is possible when you have such an injury. Don’t become too sedentary but get plenty of rest. Make sure you ask your doctor or physical therapy for a list of exercises that you can do while you are recovering to keep your self in shape.

Yoga and meditation are two excellent means of dealing with this kind of problem. Switching to a low impact workout is a great way to cope with this kind of injury.

The second part involves the use of an ice pack. Try keeping one on the injury for several hours every day. A good time to do this is when you’re relaxing with a book, playing video games, working at the computer or watching TV. Ice is important because it eases inflammation and speeds healing.


Don’t stop ice therapy when you feel better. Keep it up for several days or weeks after the pain and swelling ends. Remember that there is a good chance that swelling is continuing inside. Stopping the ice too early can cause swelling to come back.

Compression involves the use of a splint or cast. This should only be done by a doctor or physical therapist. Using a splint or cast without such a professional’s guidance can cause further injuries and make the problem worse.

Elevation means putting your foot up. This is sometimes required when a person is seriously injured. Always ask your doctor or physical therapist about this before taking the step.


Preventing Ankle Sprain

Obviously, the best way to deal with a problem such as High Ankle Sprain is not to get one in the first place. Fortunately, there are a number of steps that you can take to prevent one. These include:

  • Performing strengthening exercises such as weight lifting to preserve muscle and make such an injury less likely. People who engage in seasonal sports such as rugby, soccer and skiing should be really careful about this. Keep up your training even in the off season.


  • Making sure that you wear the right shoes for your sport. Don’t play football or soccer in your tennis shoes!
  • Using tape or a brace can protect your ankles.
  • Trying to avoid running or playing sports on broken or uneven surfaces and really slippery surfaces such as wet grass.
  • Being careful when you are walking off road or in areas with a lot of holes or loose dirt.
  • Not exercising or playing when you are feeling tired or sick. You’re more likely to get injured them.
  • Getting plenty of rest and sleep when you’re playing sports.
  • Never exercising or playing sports when you’re hung over or under the effects of drugs such as pain relievers; you’ll be more likely to get injured.
  • Being careful on icy and snow covered roads and side walks during the winter. You can get a high ankle sprain from falling there.
  • Strengthening your bones and skin by eating a high energy diet such as a raw food diet. Make sure you get a lot of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and vitamin B-12 in your diet. Try eating a lot of dark leafy greens, beans and other foods rich in these things.
  • Consulting a nutritionist to see what supplements you should be taking and foods you should be eating.
  • Stopping playing or exercising as soon as you feel an ankle pain.
  • Always consulting a trainer, physical therapist or sports medicine doctor when you suffer an ankle injury that doesn’t go away.


  • Resting and avoiding strain if you get an ankle injury.
  • Always treating ankle injuries with ice to limit inflammation.

High ankle sprains can be painful injuries that can end careers and destroy lives but they can also be avoided. A little common sense should help most people avoid them.

  • http://www.upmc.com/Services/sportsmedicine/injuries/leg/Pages/tib-fib-ligament.aspx
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_ankle_sprain
  • http://orthopedics.about.com/od/sprainsstrains/a/syndesmosis.htm
  • http://www.healingfeet.com/blog/foot-care/high-ankle-sprain
  • http://www.soccermaniak.com/high-ankle-sprain.html

Learn More about a High Ankle Sprain in this Informative Video:

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