What Is High Ankle Sprain? Symptoms & Treatments

Less common than regular low ankle sprains, a high ankle sprain bears damage on the ligaments that connect the tibia and fibula just above the ankle. Injury to the ligaments at this level causes walking to be extremely difficult as a lot of force is placed on this area to make the movements possible.

Causes

High ankle sprain is a twisting or rotational injury. It occurs when the ankle is rolled outwards from the leg or the foot is overly bent towards the shin, tearing the ligament. Usually occurring in athletes, American football players and soccer players get this injury when they fall with their ankles twisted outwards or get tangled with other players in a fall.

In an ankle fracture, the fibula might be broken above the ankle level, causing a rupture of the ligaments and the interosseous membrane that supports the tibia and fibula. The fracture usually involves a high ankle sprain and a surgery is most likely need to repair the torn ligament and broken bones.

Symptoms

Patients with high ankle sprains experience minimal swelling but more severe and lasting pain than regular ankle sprains. The injury takes longer to recover as well. The pain occurs just above the ankle and it gets more acute with external rotation.

Treatments

A mild case of high ankle sprain can be treated with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) as like regular sprains. However, recovery will take much longer. X-rays are done to check for broken bones and if there are none, patient can use a brace after applying RICE to reduce weight bearing on the injury.

A more serious case would require cast immobilization for up to 6 weeks and go through physiotherapy after the cast is removed. This is needed to restore balance and strength as the joints get stiff after weeks of being in a cast.

If the X-ray shows broken bones or a widening between the tibia and fibula, surgery is required. The bones are held back together with screws and a cast followed by a brace has to be worn for 12 weeks. The screws are then taken out in a small surgery and follow-upped with physiotherapy before patient can resume physical activities.

Complications

Patient may still experience stiffness after full recovery and certain movements of the ankle might not be as fluid as before. With surgery, infection may occur or the superficial peroneal nerve might get damaged, causing a loss of sensation in the foot. If the injury involves damage of the ankle cartilage, there is a possibility that arthritis would develop.

Pilon Fracture: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Pilon fractures occur at the lower end of the tibia, or the shinbone, where the part of the bone near the ankle bears the most weight. The smaller calf bone on the lateral side of the tibia, the fibula, most often is broken as well following the fracture.

Usually occurring in adults aged 30-40s, this injury is rare, consisting of only 7% of tibia fractures. It may be difficult to treat and complications after treatment are common.

Causes

Pilon fractures are usually resulted from high-impact falls or car accidents. Airbags in cars can save a person’s life but not protect the legs. Thus in a collision, survivors may sustain pilon fractures and usually other forms of injuries.

Symptoms

Patients would feel severe pain with swelling and bruising. Walking is impossible or extremely difficult. Bearing weight on the injured foot at this point would cause the bones and soft tissue to be further damaged. The ankle would also have a deformed appearance because of the displaced bones.

Diagnosis

It is important to inform your doctor the way that you got yourself hurt to gauge the severity of the injury. Your doctor may do an X-ray, radiograph, CT scan or 3D CAT scan to fully evaluate the fracture. Whether surgery is opted for also depends on the patient’s health condition. Let your doctor know about your medical history to avoid the risk of aggravating your health issues.

Treatments

The decision to go for surgery depends on the extent of the displacement. Most pilon fractures require surgery. If the bones are minimally displaced, nonsurgical treatment might be possible.

Nonsurgical:

Cast immobilization is used for fractures with bone pieces still aligned and stable. Patients with health problems or do not need to do a lot of walking may also be recommended nonsurgical treatment. Cast has to be worn for 6 weeks and replaced with a brace after. It is recommended to not bear weight on the injured foot for 12 weeks.

There might be a chance that patient is left with a deformed-looking ankle after the fracture heals. Improper care during the recovery process or complications cause incomplete alignment. If the shape of the joints is not fully restored, patient is at a high risk of developing arthritis.

Surgical:

Metal implants such as plates and screws are used in open reduction and internal fixation to hold the bones back in place. However, if the swelling and blisters are too severe, an external fixator may be applied first to stabilize the bones and allow soft tissue to heal before the surgery can take place to reduce the risk of infection.

Full recovery typically takes 3-6 months with regular follow-ups. Physical activity should be kept to the minimal during this period to prevent jeopardizing the healing process. It is not uncommon that patients may take up to 12 months to fully recover and regularly experience stiffness, swelling and aches even after recovery. Physiotherapy might be needed for patients that take longer to heal.