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High Ankle Sprain (Syndesmosis)

What is a High Ankle Spain?

A high ankle sprain is an injury to the ligaments that connect the bones of the lower leg above the ankle (tibia and fibula). This strong connection forms the top of the hinge of the ankle joint. This is also known as the ‘syndesmosis’. High ankle sprains are more serious injuries than general ankle sprains and require more assessment and management. These high ankle sprains are usually more painful, have high swelling and limit most activities.

Causes of a high ankle sprain

High ankle sprains occur differently to normal ankle sprains (ankle rolling outwards). They commonly occur when the foot is trapped underneath someone. For example; in a tackle at a football match. The foot may twist and rotated outwards or roll directly forward over the ankle.

How do I know if I have a high ankle sprain?

Your physiotherapist will be able to diagnose a high ankle sprain. To diagnose a high ankle sprain it is necessary for the patient to explain exactly how the injury occurred. This condition is commonly overlooked as people assume that it is a normal ankle sprain. A range of short tests will be completed to examine your ability to walk, stand on one foot and do simple exercises. If our physiotherapists believe it may be something more serious then you will be referred to complete some scans such as MRI or X-ray.

How can physiotherapy help with high ankle sprain?

Physiotherapy will be essential for effective rehabilitation from a high ankle sprain. Our Physiotherapists will be able to identify how severe the injury is, depending on whether it is major or minor depends on the personal plan the physiotherapist will provide you with. Minor injuries can be managed whilst more severe injuries will require surgery to stabilize the area.

Early management of high ankle sprains may involve a period of non-weight bearing on crutches and in a CAM boot, therefore allowing the injury time to heal. Our physiotherapists will give you a guide on how long you will need to use this supportive equipment. Once you are able to walk, you will be instructed to complete various at-home exercises to regain the strength and function of your leg and ankle. As your strength and function improve, you will be guided back to your normal activites As your function improves, you will be guided back into running and then whatever desired activity you are returning to.

What can I do at home?

Once advised by our physiotherapists, you must adhere to the guides given to you which will determine how long to spend non-weight bearing, this is important to follow to to ensure the injury heals correctly. Once you are able to begin exercising and strengthening, it will be important to complete the program outlined by your physiotherapist.

How long will my recovery take?

High ankle sprains take significantly longer to recover than normal ankle sprains. When managed correctly it will take at least 6 weeks, and more complex cases may take up to three months to return to your normal activities without any effects.

If you would like to find out more please call us or book an appointment here.

Back to Physiotherapy for Your Ankle

Reference: Australian Physiotherapy Association 2019, Your Body, viewed 19 November 2019, < https://australian.physio/>.