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Ankle Disorders

The ankle allows us to move our foot up and down and supports us in our daily activities. The demands on the ankle make it prone to injury, especially in athletes. Roughly 25,000 ankle sprains occur in the United States every single day. The most common ankle problems are sprains (injury to the ligaments) and fractures (break in the bone), followed quickly by arthritis and tendonitis.

If you have an ankle injury you may experience stiffness, instability, pain, difficulty walking, bruising, and swelling.

At UC San Diego Health, our care team provides the latest diagnostic tests and nonsurgical and surgical therapies to treat minor and complex injuries of the foot and ankle.

Diagnosis and Treatment

In order to diagnose your conditions, our team will evaluate your symptoms and conduct a physical examination of the area. Imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), X-ray, and computed tomography (CT) scan, may be used to look for tendon tears or bone fractures.

Treatment depends on your symptoms and condition. Less severe ankle injuries may be treated with pain medicines, rest, keeping the ankle elevated, compression bandages, cortisone injections, or ice packs.

More severe ankle conditions, such as ruptured tendons, fractures or arthritis, may require surgical treatment. Our team specializes in procedures to treat these conditions, including ankle replacement, ankle fusion, and ankle ligament reconstruction.

Ankle Replacement Surgery

Our joint care experts have expertise in total ankle replacement surgery, a procedure that replaces damaged bone and cartilage in the ankle joint with prosthetics (artificial joint parts). The goal of ankle replacement surgery is to lessen or eliminate pain, and allow you to move your ankle up and down.

Types of Ankle Disorders

We treat the following ankle conditions:

  • Ankle sprains
  • Peroneal tendon tears
  • Ankle impingement
  • Acute ankle fractures and stress fractures
  • Chronic ankle instability
  • Peroneus tendon tear
  • Subtalar instability
  • Osteochondral injury of the talus
  • Syndesmosis (high ankle) injury
  • Dancing injuries such as posterior and anterior ankle impingement, Os trigonum syndrome, flexor hallucis longus (FHL) tendonitis

See below for information on the most common ankle conditions.

Ankle Sprain

Ankle sprains are partial or complete tears of ligaments in both the inner (medial) and outer (lateral) aspects of the ankle that connect the bones of the ankle in order to stabilize the ankle joint. The most commonly seen ankle sprain results from an inversion injury to the ankle in which the foot twists inward, causing pain on the outside of the ankle. The degree of pain and swelling can range from mild to severe, and the ankle may feel weak or unstable. Occasionally high ankle sprains occur as well and can sometimes require surgery.

Peroneal Tendon Tear

The two peroneal tendons run parallel in the foot behind the outer ankle bone and help stabilize the ankle and foot and safeguard them from sprains. Peroneal tendon injuries most commonly occur in people who participate in sports that involve prolonged ankle motion or sudden cutting movements. Timely and accurate diagnosis and treatment is important to keep a peroneal tendon tear from worsening.

Ankle Impingement

Ankle impingement can affect either posterior or anterior aspect of the ankle joint, and is usually associated with athletic activities such as high jumping, running and soccer. Symptoms of ankle impingement include chronic anterior ankle pain and swelling as well as a history of previous ankle sprains.

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