High ankle sprain

A high ankle sprain is an uncommon form of sprain than the common low ankle sprain that affects most individuals. This form of ankle sprain can be hard to manage and capable of causing long-term issues.

When an individual ends up with a high ankle sprain, the ligaments that link the two lower legs together are damaged. The location of injury is higher up the leg and linked with a higher degree of injury that entails a longer recovery period and return to sport. The forces applied on these ligaments are higher and they should be properly healed before the individual can tolerate activities such as jumping and running.

Even though the individual can often resume activity from the usual ankle strains in just days or weeks, a high ankle sprain can take weeks to months.

  • Grade 1 sprain – mildest form of injury that only involves stretching of the ligaments
  • Grade 2 sprain – partial tear of the ligaments
  • Grade 3 sprain – full or complete tear of the ligaments

Even today, the mechanism of high ankle sprains is not yet fully understood.

How do I end up with a high ankle sprain?

A high ankle sprain typically occurs once the ankle rolls out exteriorly beyond its normal range and tears the ligament in between the two bones of the lower leg at the level of the ankle.

This injury can occur in football, basketball or soccer. It is important to note that many cases that are linked to sports are misdiagnosed or recognized long after the initial injury when the injury does not seem to recover.

Who are at risk?

High ankle sprain

Apply an ice pack or cold compress for 15-20 minutes at a time at 3-4 times throughout the day.

Sports such as soccer, football and basketball can put an individual at high risk for high ankle sprains. Even hockey and downhill skiing utilize movements that make an individual prone to this injury.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Pain once the ankle is turned exteriorly
  • Pain when the leg is squeezed at the middle part of the calf
  • Possible bruising of the affected area
  • Diminished ankle motion
  • Possible popping or snapping sound when the injury was sustained
  • Individual has difficulty walking

Initial treatment

  • The affected ankle must be protected from further injury using a wrap or splint
  • You can utilize a compression bandage or wrap to reduce the swelling
  • Apply an ice pack or cold compress for 15-20 minutes at a time at 3-4 times throughout the day.
  • Using a cushion or pillow, prop the affected leg as much as possible throughout the day and while the individual sleeps at night.
  • Pain medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen and acetaminophen can be given to minimize the pain and inflammation.

Resuming activity

When it comes to grade 1 and 2 high ankle sprains, they are managed without surgery and usually take 6 weeks or longer until the individual can resume his/her athletic activities. As for cases that require surgery, return to sports can take several months.


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