What’s a High Ankle Sprain and How Can I Tell if I Have One?

The anatomy of a high ankle sprainAnkle sprains are one of the most common injuries I see in my Houston podiatry practice. But did you know that not all sprains are created equally?  Ankle sprains can be divided into two types - common and high ankle. It is critical to distinguish between the two types of injuries as recovery from each separate category has to be managed differently in order to avoid prolonged problems.

All ankle sprains are the result of excessive forces being placed on a ligament, resulting in a partial or complete tear. A “common” ankle sprain (also known as an inversion sprain) affects the ligaments on the outside of the foot, running from the outer ankle bone to the foot. These sprains are associated with ankle “rolls”—your foot turns inward and you experience localized pain on the outside of your foot. As the name suggest, common ankle sprains are the most frequent type of sprain, and can occur during a sporting match or even if you trip while walking down the street. Symptoms include pain, bruising, and swelling to the outside foot.

The high ankle sprain, on the other hand, occurs just above the ankle joint, affecting the ligaments that hold your lower two leg bones together. High ankle sprains are usually the result of sudden twisting injuries, making them more common athletic injuries. High ankle sprains result in lower leg pain, and often have less bruising and swelling than the common ankle sprain, despite being the injury that typically takes longer to heal.

Both common and high ankle sprains can be treated similarly, but it is important that your doctor determines your specific injury type in order to guide your rest period—you should be sidelined longer if you’re dealing with a high ankle sprain.  It’s also important to note that broken bones often present with the same symptoms as sprains, so it’s crucial to see your doctor for diagnostic testing before treating any foot or ankle injury.

Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.