What is a high ankle sprain?

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A high ankle sprain would require immediate attention even if the individual is not sure what is involved, but it is an injury that will limit any activity especially among athletes for months. A high ankle sprain is less common than the low ankle sprain but it can be serious. Another difference with a low ankle sprain is that a high ankle sprain is difficult to treat and can cause long-term problems.

In a high ankle sprain, the ligaments that are responsible for connecting the two longer bones together are damaged. Take note that the location is higher in the leg and usually linked with a higher level of injury and requires a longer time to recover and resume any activity. The forces on these ligaments are greater and must properly heal before the individual can tolerate jumping or running. For standard ankle sprains, it would take days to weeks for the individual to recover but a high ankle sprain would require weeks or even months to fully heal.

Grading a high ankles sprain

  • Grade 1 sprain is the mildest form and involves stretching of the ligaments
  • Grade 2 sprain involves a partial tear on the ligaments
  • Grade 3 sprain involves a complete tear

Take note that the mechanism of a high ankle sprain is not yet fully understood and studies are still conducted regarding the best way to diagnose the condition as well as the management of the injury.

How a high ankle sprain occurs

high ankle sprain
In a high ankle sprain, the ligaments that are responsible for connecting the two longer bones together are damaged.

A high ankle sprain typically occurs once the ankle moves outside its normal range of motion and rips the ligaments amid the two bones of the inferior leg that is in line with the ankle.

This sprain can occur if the individual plays basketball, soccer or football especially when he/she lands in an awkward position after jumping, hit by another player, stepped on by another player or performs abrupt change in direction. Syndesmosis is the medical term for the condition and it is often misdiagnosed or recognized long after the initial injury was sustained.

Who are at risk for high ankle sprains?

Individuals who play soccer, football and basketball are at highest risk for this injury. Hockey players and downhill skiers also utilize movements that make them prone to a high ankle sprain.

Symptoms of a high ankle sprain

If you suspect a high ankle sprain, the following symptoms are likely to manifest:

  • Pain when the affected leg is squeezed at the middle part of the calf
  • Pain when the ankle is turned outside
  • Limited ankle motion
  • Possible bruising on affected area
  • Possible popping or snapping sound when the injury was sustained
  • Walking difficulties

Treating a high ankle sprain

If you have enrolled in a first aid class, you will learn how to handle soft tissue injuries such as strains and sprains.

Initially, protect the ankle from further injury using a wrap or splint. You can utilize a compression wrap in order to minimize the swelling. Apply an ice pack or cold compress for 15-20 minutes for 3-4 times in a day.

You can elevate the affected leg by using a cushion or pillow if possible during the day and while sleeping at night. Over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, naproxen, acetaminophen and naproxen can help relieve the pain as well as reduce the inflammation.

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