Aaron Hernandez, tight end for the New England Patriots, recently limped off the field with a high ankle sprain. This injury can be devastating, but Hernandez should be able to return in four to six weeks. Read on to learn more about this common injury and how it differs from the more common low ankle sprain.
High Ankle Anatomy
The ligaments of the high ankle—technically called the syndesmotic ligaments—attach the tibia and fibula and are located slightly above the ankle. Their purpose is to support the lower leg bones and maintain alignment with each step. They must cope with forces several times your body weight when you walk, sprint or change directions. These ligaments are not related to an inward rolling of the foot.
How Injuries Occur
High ankle sprains are most common in contact sports such as hockey, rugby and football. They occur when there is an outward twisting of the foot. In most cases the injury happens when the foot is planted and the athlete is tackled, causing a twisting motion in the lower leg.
High ankle sprains tend to be more painful than low ankle sprains, but often there is no swelling or bruising. Pain is experienced when the foot is turned outwards or when the calf is squeezed. This severely limits the ability to run and sprint in competition.
With rest and proper rehab techniques, a high ankle sprain can heal in four or more weeks. In contrast, low ankle sprains can sometimes heal in only a few days. High ankle sprains are generally regarded as more severe than low ankle sprains, and they are more likely to require surgery.
No matter how severely an athlete is injured or how seemingly insignificant the injury, it is important to be evaluated by a trained professional to ensure a safe return to activity.
Stay tuned for a follow-up article on how to prevent high ankle sprains.
Photos: boston.com, eorthopod.com