woman twisting her ankle while runningA dislocated ankle is a condition characterized by damage and tearing of the connective tissue surrounding the ankle joint with subsequent displacement of the bones forming the joint so they are no longer situated next to each other.

The lower leg is comprised of two long bones, known as the fibula and the tibia, which are situated beside each other. These bones join with each other and the talus to form the ankle joint. The ankle joint is comprised of strong connective tissue surrounding the joint known as the joint capsule and several ligaments providing additional stability. Numerous muscles around the ankle provide additional support.

Causes of Dislocated Ankle

During certain movements of the ankle, stretching forces are applied to the ankle joint capsule. When these forces are excessive and beyond what the ankle can withstand, tearing of the connective tissue may occur. This may allow the ankle bones to move out of their normal position if the forces involved are too great and beyond what the connective tissue and supporting muscles can withstand. When this occurs, the condition is known as a dislocated ankle. 

Due to the large forces required to dislocate the ankle, this condition usually occurs in combination with other injuries of the foot, ankle, or lower leg such as fractures or severe (Grade III) ankle sprains. 

The Prognosis for a Dislocated Ankle

Many patients with a dislocated ankle heal well with appropriate physiotherapy and return to normal function. This may take weeks to months to achieve an optimal outcome. However, due to the severity of the injury and widespread connective tissue damage associated with this condition, patients may experience long-term effects. The most common long-term effect of a dislocated ankle is an increased likelihood of future dislocation or ankle sprain with relatively minor trauma. In cases of recurrent ankle dislocation, surgical intervention may be indicated to increase the ankle's stability. This is usually followed by an extensive rehabilitation program lasting many months. 

Patients with a dislocated ankle who also have damage to other structures such as cartilage, bone, or nerves are likely to have a significantly extended rehabilitation period to gain optimum function.

Eric Harmelin, DPM
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Experienced Amputation Prevention Specialist and Podiatrist in Annapolis, Stevensville, and Glen Burnie, MD.