Applied Evidence

High ankle sprains: Easy to miss, so follow these tips

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Although not the standard of care, ultrasonography is gaining traction as a means of investigating the integrity of the syndesmotic ligaments.

Strength training, proprioceptive and neuromuscular control activities, and low-risk activities such as jogging, biking, and swimming do not necessarily require the use of prophylactic bracing. However, because syndesmotic injuries are associated with recurrent ankle injuries, prophylactic bracing should be used during high-risk activities that involve agility maneuvers and jumping. Substantial evidence demonstrates that the use of ankle taping or ankle bracing decreases the incidence of ankle injuries, particularly in those who have had previous ankle injuries.26 In one study (N = 450), only 3% of athletes with a history of prior ankle injuries suffered a recurrent ankle sprain when using an ankle orthosis compared with a 17% injury rate in the control group.28

More recently, 2 separate studies by McGuine et al demonstrated that the use of lace-up ankle braces led to a reduction in the incidence of acute ankle injuries by 61% among 2081 high-school football players, and resulted in a significant reduction in acute ankle injuries in a study of 1460 male and female high-school basketball players, compared with the control groups.29,30


Ten days after injuring himself, the patient returns for a follow-up exam. Despite using the walking brace and crutches, he is still having significant difficulty bearing weight. He reports a sensation of instability in the right ankle. On exam, you note visible edema of the right ankle and ecchymosis over the lateral ankle, as well as moderate tenderness to palpation over the area of the ATFL and deltoid ligament. Tenderness over the medial malleolus, lateral malleolus, fifth metatarsal, and navicular is absent. Pain is reproducible with external rotation, and a Squeeze Test is positive. There is no tenderness over the proximal tibia or fibula. The patient is neurovascularly intact.

You order stress x-rays, which show widening of the medial clear space. The patient is placed in a CAM boot, instructed to continue non–weight-bearing on the ankle, and referred to a local foot and ankle surgeon for consideration of surgical fixation.

John T. Nickless, MD, Division of Primary Care Sports Medicine, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Rush University Medical Center, 1611 W. Harrison Street, Suite 200, Chicago, IL, 60612;

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