Evaluation and treatment recommendations for acute injuries to the ankle syndesmosis without associated fracture

Timothy L Miller, Timothy Skalak
Sports Medicine 2014, 44 (2): 179-88
Ankle ligamentous injuries are commonly seen in athletes in a variety of sports. Surveys of physicians and trainers of professional sports teams have identified syndesmotic injuries as among the most difficult to treat. In particular, injuries of the ankle syndesmosis have been strongly linked with a prolonged recovery and increased time to return to play. Due to sudden external rotation with the tibiotalar joint in dorsiflexion, these structures are commonly injured in association with fractures of the distal fibula. Surgery is indicated in cases with associated fractures and ligamentous instability, but optimal treatment for syndesmosis injuries without an associated fracture is less clear. A thorough history and physical examination, as well as appropriate imaging, are necessary to effectively diagnose and classify the injury. For stable injuries, short-term immobilization and functional rehabilitation is recommended. Unstable Grade 2 and 3 injuries require surgical fixation. Debate currently exists over rigid screw fixation versus suture button techniques as the ideal fixation method.

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