Ankle sprains are common injuries. In fact, they are one of the most common injuries encountered in the United States. But what is the difference between a common ankle sprain and a high ankle sprain? And why do athletes with a high ankle sprain seem to be out for a longer period of time? The reason lies in the anatomy of the ankle and the different ligaments injured in a common vs. high ankle sprain.
The ankle is made of three bones in the lower leg: the tibia, the fibula, and the talus. These bones act together to form the ankle joint, which typically sustains loads three times a person’s body weight with normal daily activity. The soft tissues that surround the ankle allow for its stability and motion. The ligaments, in particular, stabilize the ankle.
A high ankle sprain is a rotational injury in which the ligaments between the tibia and fibula become torn or stretched. This is a serious injury and takes about twice as long as a common sprain to heal. Patients will be required to wear a walking boot for several weeks, followed by an ankle brace. Sometimes surgery is required to repair the ligament.
A low ankle sprain—where the ankle is rolled, and the outer ligaments are stretched—is much more common, thus the name. Treatment usually consists of wearing an ankle brace and physical therapy.