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A high ankle sprain (or syndesmosis sprain), is an extremely common type of sports injury. It generally results in pain and swelling around the affected area. The intensity of this will depend on the severity of the sprain.
A high ankle sprain is typically caused by a sudden change in direction or speed when taking part in sports or exercise. It can also be as a result of landing on the ankle awkwardly or running into someone or an object. By following the correct form of treatment, most people will recover completely from such an injury. However, it might be necessary to wear some form of ankle support in the future to prevent further injuries.
A sprained ankle is caused when the ligaments around the syndesmosis joint (between the Fibula and Tibia bones) are damaged because they have been twisted, stretched or torn. When these types of ankle injuries occur, the patient will feel pain when the ligament is moved and there will be some element of swelling around the ankle.
The extent of this pain and swelling will depend on how severe the injury is. With a first degree sprain, pain will be felt when the ankle is used or pressure is put on the area. A second degree injury will be characterised by swelling and it becomes painful when walking. Severe ankle injuries are where the pain becomes considerably worse and the patient is unable to walk on the affected joint.
In the majority of cases, this injury can be treated through a combination of rest, pain relief and physiotherapy. However, in more severe cases, surgery may be required to fix the damaged ligament. For first and second degree injuries, it typically takes up to two months to fully recover.
When an injury first occurs the PRICE (Protect, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) system should be used to limit the severity of the injury. By resting the injury, the ankle will be protected from any further damage. An ice pack should be applied at regular intervals to help reduce the intensity of the swelling and then a compressive ankle support can be used to manage the affected region. If required, pain relief medication can be used.
This treatment method should be adopted in the early stages following injury. However, once the pain starts to subside, it’s important to start moving the joint once again. For more severe cases, it might be necessary to follow the guidance of a physiotherapy to help re-build strength in the ankle.
It’s not always possible to prevent an ankle injury, but some people will be more prone to suffering one than others. There are ways in which the risk can be reduced, such as ensuring the right footwear is worn; following an effective warm up and stretching regime and doing specific exercises to strengthen the area.
If you feel a twinge in your ankle then you should cease your activity to minimise the risk of further damage being caused to the joint, resulting in a potentially lengthier spell on the sidelines.