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High Ankle vs. Lateral Ankle Sprains: What’s the Difference?

Updated: Mar 7

Ankle sprains may be one of the most common injuries, but they are also frequently misdiagnosed. The two major types of sprained ankles—high ankle sprains and lateral ankle sprains—often look the same even though they affect entirely different ligaments.

Pain, swelling, limited motion and bruising in the entire ankle region can occur in both high ankle sprains and lateral ankle sprains. The difference lies in where the injury occurs and which ligaments are involved.

When a foot and ankle surgeon diagnoses an ankle sprain, it is important for him or her to understand how the injury occurred. Lateral sprains are caused by the foot turning inward, whereas high ankle sprains are the result of the foot being forced outward.

High ankle sprains can be more complicated because this region has five ligaments connecting two bones in the leg, compared with three ligaments that can be affected in lateral ankle sprains. The more ligaments involved and the worse they are torn, the more severe the injury.

Also, the prognosis for a high ankle sprain is usually worse when compared to a low ankle sprain, and it often takes longer to heal or to return to play or competition. This is why it is critical to see a foot and ankle surgeon promptly to get an expected prognosis since all sprains differ in terms of recovery.

Any time you see bruising or are unable to bear weight on your foot after an injury, contact our office as soon as possible to make an appointment.

Ankle sprain pain

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