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

  • By Ruth Ann Cooper
  • 13 Jun, 2016

Ankle sprains may be one of the most common injuries, but they are also commonly misdiagnosed. That’s because 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.

The less common type, high ankle sprain, is often mistaken for a lateral sprain. Misdiagnosis can delay getting the proper treatment and that can impair recovery. Pain, swelling, limited motion and bruising in the entire ankle region can occur in both high ankle sprains and lateral sprains. The difference lies in where the injury occurs and which ligaments are involved.

In diagnosing an ankle sprain, it is important for us 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 by a lateral sprain. The more ligaments involved and the worse they are torn, the more severe the injury.

Any time you see bruising in your ankle region or the inability to bear weight on your foot after an injury, it is best to make an appointment with me for an examination and evaluation. It is also important to remember that even though you can walk on an injured foot or ankle, that doesn’t mean there is not a severe injury present.

Dr. Ruth Ann Cooper

By Ruth Ann Cooper 20 Jul, 2017

With warm weather in full swing, most of us have been enjoying the outdoors, whether that means tending to our yards and gardens, playing recreational sports or spending time at the beach. However, it takes just one wrong step for summer fun to turn into a painful ankle sprain or fracture. Walking, running and playing on uneven surfaces, such as grassy lawns, beaches and hiking trails, leave us susceptible to ankle trauma. Lightweight,  unsupportive summer footwear, such as sandals or flip-flops, make it even more difficult for us to regain balance on uneven surfaces.

 Sprains are one of the most common ankle injuries, but how can we tell if ankle pain is a sprain or a fracture? An ankle sprain is an injury to one or more of the ligaments in the ankle. These ligaments are like rubber bands that stabilize the ankle and limit the side-to-side motion. When these ligaments are stretched or torn, which can happen, for example, when the ankle is suddenly twisted, a sprain results. A fracture can also occur when the ankle is rolled under and the ankle is twisted. In this case, one or more bones may break or the ligament may pull a piece of bone off when it tears.

 When you have an ankle sprain, rehabilitation is crucial and it starts the moment your treatment begins. Treatment of ankle fractures depends on the type and severity of the injury. If you suffer from an ankle injury, follow the R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) protocol and contact my office for a proper evaluation or seek care at your local Emergency Department after hours. In some case, surgery may be necessary to repair the fracture and other soft-tissue related injuries, if present.


  If you or a family member suffer a sprained or fractured ankle this summer, follow these steps:   

  1.       Stay off it. Walking with a sprain or fracture can cause further damage.

2.       Ice It.   Make an ice pack by wrapping a bag of frozen vegetables in a lightweight towel. Do not apply the ice pack for more than 20 minutes each hour.

3.       Wrap It.   A loosely applied elastic bandage can help stabilize the ankle and can reduce swelling.

4.       Elevate it.   Lie with the leg on a pillow so that the ankle is above the level of your heart. This will help with pain and swelling.

5.       Call my office.   Prompt diagnosis and treatment are important in a successful recovery.

By Ruth Ann Cooper 14 Jun, 2017

  1. Wear comfortable shoes to the airport. You never know how long you will wait in line, how far you will walk to a terminal or if you will need to run to make a connecting flight. Loose fitting flip-flops and sandals increase your risk of tripping, falling and spraining your ankle. Sprains should be evaluated by a foot and ankle specialist within 24 hours to ensure proper healing.
  2. Wear socks with your comfortable shoes.   Not only do socks protect skin from shoe friction that can cause blisters and calluses, they also keep you healthy. Walking barefoot through an airport metal detector exposes your feet to bacteria and viruses that could cause plantar warts and fungus.
  3.   Avoid bringing new shoes on vacation.   If your vacation includes walking tours, hiking or dancing, wear worn-in shoes that support and cushion your feet.
  4. Check your children’s shoes for fit and comfort.   Make sure their shoes are not too big or too small and ensure that they provide proper arch support and shock absorption.
  5. Pack flip-flops or sandals and wear sparingly. Use them in place of walking barefoot in locker rooms and around pools, where you may pick up athlete’s foot, a plantar wart infection or toenail fungus.
  6. Pack an antifungal cream or powder.   Use an antifungal product to help prevent athlete’s foot if you are staying in a hotel or swimming in public pools.
  7. Place a towel on the floor before entering the shower or bathtub.   The towel will help prevent slipping when you exit and will also help dry toes and protect them from infection.
  8. Stretch your legs and pump your feet if you are traveling more than two hours.   This will help circulate your blood to prevent dangerous blood clots in your legs known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  9. Consider wearing compression socks on the aircraft.   These can help prevent blood clots and DVT by pushing the blood through the legs and back to the lungs and heart.
  10. Pack a small first-aid kit. If you develop a blister on your foot, clean your foot with saline solution, apply a small amount of antibiotic cream to the blister and cover it with a Coverlet bandage, Band-Aid or gauze. If you suffer a puncture wound, see a foot and ankle specialist within 24 hours for professional cleaning of the wound to prevent infection and other complications.

By Ruth Ann Cooper 22 May, 2017

What lies hidden in the grass, dirt or sand can definitely wreak havoc on bare feet. From nails, shards of glass, slivers of wood, pieces of seashell at the beach, thorns from trees and plants or sometimes discarded toothpicks, each can puncture the skin of the foot and cause serious injury. Even after the object has been completely removed from the foot, any dirt or bacteria pushed into the wound from the puncture can lead to an infection, painful scarring or even a cyst. Any puncture wounds should be promptly treated in my office within 24 hours.

Besides hidden dangers, “everyday childhood injuries” can also interrupt a summer break. Protect your children’s feet from traumatic injuries, such as bicycle injuries and lawn mower accidents, by making sure they wear sturdy shoes while riding a bike or when cutting the grass.

Do not discount sunburn on the feet. Protect your children’s feet from the sun’s harmful rays by applying sunscreen to the tops and bottoms of their feet. Feet, like shoulders, burn faster than the rest of the body since they are most perpendicular to the sun’s rays. Not only is sunburn of the feet painful, it can also cause skin cancers that often go unnoticed until they become very serious.

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