Your lower leg bones (tibia and fibula) are held together at the ankle by a group of soft tissues and ligaments called the “syndesmosis”. This connection prevents excessive spreading of these bones during normal activity, but injuries can cause these ligaments to be stretched or torn. This problem is called a “syndesmotic ankle sprain” or “high ankle sprain”. High ankle sprains often occur during contact sports (like football, hockey, and soccer) when your foot is planted while the rest of your body shifts forward and turns inward. High ankle sprains are much less common than other types of ankle sprains.
The pain of a high ankle sprain starts just above your ankle and runs up your shin. Interestingly, the “length” of pain correlates very closely to your severity of injury. Standing and walking is usually uncomfortable and sometimes unbearable. Bringing your toes toward your shin or rotating your foot outward will likely increase your pain. Significant bruising or swelling is possible. Be sure to tell your doctor if you notice numbness, tingling, or coldness in your foot.
Ankles that have suffered a complete separation usually require surgery, since they will have lost the ability to push off, propel, and cut. Most other stable sprains will respond to conservative care, like the type provided in this office. It is important to recognize that high ankle sprains heal more slowly than other types of ankle sprains. The average recovery time for a syndesmotic sprain is between two and seven weeks but some injuries may require up to four months away from your sport. You may need to wear a boot or avoid weight bearing for a period of time. Ice may help to limit swelling initially, and the home exercises described below are an important part of your recovery.