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What is the difference between an ankle sprain and a high ankle sprain?

High ankle sprains are injuries that extend up the lower leg. The symptoms are severe pain and loss of function when pushing off or cutting. These injuries are difficult to treat, may take months to heal and need an extended period of immobilization. It is common for this injury to require surgery.

How the injury happens and what structure is affected is the big difference between an ankle sprain and a high ankle sprain. An ankle sprain usually happens when you evert or invert (roll) your ankle, and it usually causes damage to the ligaments on the outside or inside of your ankle. A high ankle sprain may occur when there is an external rotation and a forced hyperdorsiflexion or hyper-plantar flexion. These motions cause injury to the tibiofibular syndesmosis, which is a fibrous sheet between your two leg bones. Both types of ankle sprains can be treated initially with rest, ice, compression and elevation (R.I.C.E.).

This answer provided for NATA by the Eastern University Athletic Training Education Program.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.