Foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons discuss causes, treatment, and recovery for this common football injury
Rosemont, Ill. (August 24, 2023) — Football is one of the most popular sports in the United States, but the high speed and impact can put players at risk for foot and ankle injuries. As the preseason ends and football season officially starts, foot
and ankle orthopaedic surgeons discuss treatment and recovery for one of the most common injuries in the sport—a high ankle sprain.
David A. Porter, MD, PhD, at Forté Sports Medicine and Orthopedics in Carmel, Indiana, said a high ankle sprain, also known as a syndesmotic injury, is a stretching or tearing of the ligament between the tibia and fibula bone. The injury is different
from a common ankle sprain.
“A common ankle sprain or ‘low sprain’ happens on the outside of the ankle when someone lands awkwardly on their foot and the foot turns in,” Dr. Porter explained. “The high ankle sprain occurs ‘higher’ up on
the ankle and is a more severe injury than a common ankle sprain.”
James R. Jastifer, MD, from Ascension Borgess Orthopedics in Kalamazoo, Michigan, said a high ankle sprain occurs from a twisting or a rotational injury. This injury is common in football because of the traction between the player’s cleats and the
playing surface when tackling and changing directions.
In football, a player may get a high ankle sprain during a pile up where their ankle gets caught under another player, or when another player lands on the outside of the ankle and causes the foot to go “outside,” Dr. Porter continued.
Recovery for the “high” sprain is often twice as long as the recovery for the “low” sprain injury.
Mark C. Drakos, MD, at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, New York, said treatment for the high ankle sprain includes a period of immobilization with the RICE treatment (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). A foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon
may recommend a Controlled Ankle Motion (CAM) boot or sometimes a short leg cast.
Then, the surgeon will follow a regular rehabilitation process protecting against further rotation of the ankle with bracing, taping, or both.
Unfortunately, severe high ankle sprains may require longer periods of immobilization or even surgery.
“High ankle sprains can be one of the most frustrating injuries to have because there is a large spectrum of severity to these injuries,” Dr. Jastifer said. “A mild injury may only require two to four weeks of recovery, while a complete
tear can require surgery and end the season for a player.”
Because of the spectrum of injuries, Dr. Jastifer notes it is important to be evaluated by a medical expert such as a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon before returning to play to avoid long-term complications. For more information about high ankle sprains,
go to FootCareMD.
About Foot and Ankle Orthopaedic Surgeons
Foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons are medical doctors (MD and DO) who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries of the foot and ankle. Their education and training consist of four years of medical school, five
years of postgraduate residency, and a fellowship year of specialized surgical training. These specialists care for patients of all ages, performing reconstructive surgery for deformities and arthritis, treating sports injuries, and managing foot
and ankle trauma.
About the AOFAS
The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) mobilizes our dynamic community of foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons to improve patient care through education, research, and advocacy. As the premier global organization for foot and ankle care,
AOFAS delivers exceptional events and resources for continuous education, funds and promotes innovative research, and broadens patient understanding of foot and ankle conditions and treatments. By emphasizing collaboration and excellence, AOFAS inspires
ever-increasing levels of professional performance leading to improved patient outcomes. For more information visit the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society online at aofas.org.