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Ankle Ligament Damage

    The human ankle is a complex mechanism consisting of three separate joints that connect the foot and leg. Because they support the entire body’s weight, these joints must be extremely strong. Increased strength results in better stability, allowing higher weight-bearing, mobility, and adaptability standards for the entire body.

    In conjunction with the foot, the ankle allows you to perform activities of daily living like standing, walking, running, and jumping while also acting as a kinetic linkage between your limbs and the ground. The physiology of the ankles enables them to withstand the stress of our body weight while also allowing them to adapt and react quickly to changes in the environment and walking surface.

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    The ankle and subtalar joint are connected with ligaments, which attach bone to bone. Three major ligaments hold the outside of the ankle and foot bones together: the anterior talofibular ligament, the posterior talofibular ligament, and the calcaneofibular ligament. The inside of the ankle consists of four ligaments. These tend to be much stronger than the ligaments located on the outside of the ankle. They are the anterior and posterior tibiotalar ligaments, the talonavicular ligament, and the talocalcaneal ligament. Working in tandem, these fibrous bands of connective tissue help keep the ankle stable through all of the different activities humans perform daily.

    Ankle Ligament Damage

    Ankle ligament damage can be caused by traumatic injuries that occur when the foot is planted, falls or missteps, or a direct impact on the ankle. When these ligaments become overstretched, they can begin to fray or even tear completely. Only a specialist can determine the severity of a tear, and one should always consult a doctor to receive an accurate diagnosis.

    Grade I: The ankle ligaments are stretched, causing minor damage and micro-tearing. These injuries may be painful but can be remedied through pain management and proper exercise protocols.

    Grade II: Tears that are considered Grade II involve the partial tearing of one of the ligaments in the ankle that causes more laxity in the ankle joint. Treatment for these types of injuries normally consists of immobilization and strengthening exercises.

    Grade III: These ligament tears involve a complete tear of the connective tissue. Individuals will experience a lot of instability in the ankle joint accompanied by swelling. Typically this injury will require surgery combined with extensive therapy to allow for a full recovery and full functionality to return to the ankle joint.

    Treating Ankle Ligament Damage

    When you suffer from an ankle ligament injury, you should initiate the RICE protocols and schedule an appointment with a specialist to receive an accurate diagnosis.

    • Rest to minimize worsening the already injured ankle and ligament.
    • Immobilization of the ligament will help decrease the stress and minimize the swelling caused by any extraneous motion. Depending on the severity of the injury, you may require immobilization of the ankle for a set period.
    • Ice to help reduce swelling and pain for the first 48 hours. Do not apply ice directly to the skin. Always use ice intermittently and do not apply for more than 20 minutes at a time. While icing, do not apply heat to the affected area.
    • Elevate the leg to help reduce the swelling of the affected area.

    Conservative treatment aims at reducing pain and swelling and providing rest to the injured ligament. Failure to treat ankle ligament damage may result in chronic ankle instability. Surgery may be required if nonsurgical treatments fail to provide relief and ankle joint instability persists after months of treatment.

    Ankle Ligament Damage

    Managing Your Pain

    Following any injury to your ankle, you should seek medical attention from a specialist.

    • A clinical evaluation may entail a physical exam, X-rays, or an MRI may be necessary in the cases of Grade III injuries.
    • Use of ice and immobilization to stabilize and rest the injured joint.
    • Your pain management specialist may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication or pain medication as deemed necessary.
    • A brace may be needed.
    • Surgery may be required in the case of severe Grade III injuries.

    To determine the extent and nature of the injury, a thorough physical examination by a physician, as well as X-rays, may be required. An MRI scan may be ordered in severe cases to confirm the severity of the injury and rule out the possibility of a fracture. If surgery is recommended, you will require 2 to 4 weeks of postoperative physical rehabilitation to help prevent the injury from recurring.


    Ankle ligament injuries tend to have positive outcomes when a proper plan of care is established. The time frame for full recovery is dependent upon the severity of the injury. Grade I and grade II injuries may take anywhere from 4-8 weeks to recover from, while Grade III injuries can take up to four months.

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    Page Updated on May 20, 2022 by Dr. Freeman (Pain Management Specialist) of Redefine Healthcare Dr. Eric D. Freeman

    Dr. Eric D. Freeman is a top-rated, best-in-class pain management doctor. He is a nationally recognized pain relief specialist and is among the top pain care doctors in New Jersey and the country. He is an award-winning expert and contributor to prominent media outlets.

    Dr. Eric D. Freeman has been recognized for his thoughtful, thorough, modern approach to treating chronic pain. He has been named a “top pain management doctor in New Jersey” and one of “America’s Top Physicians” for advanced sports injury treatments.

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