Talofibular Ligament Injury Treatment & Management
- Author: Marc A Molis, MD, FAAFP; Chief Editor: Sherwin SW Ho, MD more...
Initial treatment of all grades of lateral ankle sprains consists of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE), as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).[15, 16, 13] Ice should be applied to the injured ankle for approximately 20 minutes, 3-4 times per day. Compressive dressings should be used to control swelling. Weight bearing should be encouraged as soon as it is tolerated. With grade III injuries, an ankle brace should be worn at all times till the patient can ambulate pain free. Ankle braces can be used for support in all ankle sprains and may help promote earlier ambulation. Studies have found an air stirrup brace and ACE wrap are beneficial in grade 1 ankle sprains and may help in grade II and III sprains as well.
The early phase of rehabilitation is begun approximately 48 hours postinjury. Icing is continued and range of motion exercises are initiated. Writing the alphabet with the great toe moves the ankle through full range of motion in all planes. Stationary biking and stretching of the Achilles tendon are also beneficial.
As strength and mobility improve, isometric exercises for ankle dorsiflexion, plantar flexion, inversion, and eversion are initiated. The isometric exercises are followed by resistance exercises (initially using a Thera-Band strap) and then heel and toe raises. Agility training also aids in returning the athlete to sports. Proprioceptive and balance training are also extremely important to help the patient heal fully, especially in jumping athletes. Proprioceptive training should be incorporated into all rehabilitation protocols.
In grade III ankle sprains, some studies have shown that early mobilization and rehabilitation may provide earlier functional recovery relative to surgery, and there is general agreement to try a 6-week period of conservative management, including early, controlled mobilization and rehabilitation before considering surgery.[17, 18]
Also, no difference is found in long-term outcome when comparing early surgical repair with delayed surgical repair following failed conservative therapy. Therefore, there is no indication for routine early surgical repair.
Related Medscape Reference topics:
Related Medscape resources:
Resource Center Adverse Drug Events Reporting
Specialty Site Surgery
Primary repair of acute lateral ligament tears is rarely indicated. Open repair seems to offer no advantage over closed management at the time of the initial injury. Delayed repair may be necessary in patients with chronic mechanical instability on clinical examination and functional instability; however, surgical intervention in these cases should only be considered after an aggressive rehabilitation program has been unsuccessful.
See the list below:
An emergent consultation is rarely required.
Consultation with an orthopedic surgeon should be obtained for patients with unstable ankles, dislocations, or associated fractures.
When the early phase rehabilitation goals of decreased swelling, full weight bearing, and no tenderness to palpation are met, more aggressive strengthening and proprioceptive training are added. Increased stretching of the Achilles tendon, as well as the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, is performed using an incline board. Thera-Band exercises are continued for strengthening. Exercises such as one-leg stands and wobble board training are added for proprioception. This training continues until the ankle is at 80-90% of full strength and there are no deficits in proprioception. When these goals are met, the patient may be discharged from therapy.
Maximum benefit from conservative therapy is reached after approximately 10 weeks of active rehabilitation. At this time, 20% of athletes continue to have symptoms secondary to either a functional or mechanical instability. If the patient has reached his or her maximal benefit from functional rehabilitation and has a persistent deficit, then surgical reconstruction should be considered.[18, 19, 20]
The patient should be independent with a home exercise program with sport-specific activities and gradually return to play when the functional goals are met. The physician and/or physical therapist may recommend taping or bracing the ankle upon returning to activity. Taping or bracing a previously injured ankle during athletic activity has been shown to reduce the incidence of recurrent injury.
Brukner P, Khan KM. Acute ankle injuries. Clinical Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. San Francisco, Calif: McGraw-Hill; 2006.
Jackson MD, Moeller JL, Hough DO. Basketball injuries. Sallis RE, Massimino F, eds. American College of Sports Medicine’s Essentials of Sports Medicine. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 1996. 558-9.
Fong BL, Brunet ME. The leg, ankle, and foot. Perrin DH, ed. The Injured Athlete. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott-Raven; 1999. 432-9.
Jayanthi N. Lower leg and ankle. McKeag DB, Moeller J, eds. ACSM's Primary Care Sports Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins; 2007.
Magee D. Lower leg, ankle, and foot. Orthopedic Physical Assessment. 4th ed. Toronto, Canada: Elsevier Sciences; 2006.
Brage ME, Colville MR, Early JS. Ankle and foot: trauma. Beaty JH, ed. Orthopaedic Knowledge Update 6. Rosemont, Ill: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; 1999. 597-612.
Breitenseher MJ. [Injury of the ankle joint ligaments] [German]. Radiologe. 2007 Mar. 47(3):216-23. [Medline].
Rubin A. Ankle ligament sprains. Sallis RE, Massimino F, eds. American College of Sports Medicine’s Essentials of Sports Medicine. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 1996. 450-2.
Schepsis AA. Ligamentous injuries of the ankle. Yablon IG, Segal D, Leach RE, eds. Ankle Injuries. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 1983. 193-208.
Scranton PE. Ankle and foot: trauma. Fitzgerald RH Jr, ed. Orthopaedic Knowledge Update 2. Rosemont, Ill: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; 1987. 447-54.
Haraguchi N, Toga H, Shiba N, Kato F. Avulsion fracture of the lateral ankle ligament complex in severe inversion injury: incidence and clinical outcome. Am J Sports Med. 2007 Jul. 35(7):1144-52. [Medline].
Garrett WE Jr. Trauma: soft tissue. Fitzgerald RH Jr, ed. Orthopaedic Knowledge Update 2. Rosemont, Ill: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; 1987. 89-96.
van den Bekerom MP, Kerkhoffs GM, McCollum GA, Calder JD, van Dijk CN. Management of acute lateral ankle ligament injury in the athlete. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2013 Jun. 21 (6):1390-5. [Medline].
Croy T, Saliba S, Saliba E, Anderson MW, Hertel J. Talofibular interval changes after acute ankle sprain: a stress ultrasonography study of ankle laxity. J Sport Rehabil. 2013 Nov. 22 (4):257-63. [Medline].
Harmon KG. Which support is best for first-time ankle sprains?. Clin J Sport Med. 2007 Jul. 17(4):333-4. [Medline].
Mellion MB, Walsh WM, Shelton GL, eds. The Team Physician's Handbook. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Hanley and Belfus; 2002.
Simons S. Rehabilitation of ankle injuries. Sallis RE, Massimino F, eds. Simons S. Rehabilitation of ankle injuries. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 1996. 458-61.
Kerkhoffs GM, Handoll HH, de Bie R, Rowe BH, Struijs PA. Surgical versus conservative treatment for acute injuries of the lateral ligament complex of the ankle in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Apr 18. CD000380. [Medline].
Anderson RB. Ankle and foot: reconstruction. Kasser JK, ed. Orthopaedic Knowledge Update 5. Rosemont, Ill: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; 1996. 525-48.
Mann RA. Ankle and foot: reconstruction. Fitzgerald RH Jr, ed. Orthopaedic Knowledge Update 2. Rosemont, Ill: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; 1987. 455-63.
Kelikian H, Kelikian AS. Disruption of the fibular collateral ligament. Kelikian H, Kelikian AS, eds. Disorders of the Ankle. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 1985. 437-90.
Samoto N, Sugimoto K, Takaoka T, et al. Comparative results of conservative treatments for isolated anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) injury and injury to both the ATFL and calcaneofibular ligament of the ankle as assessed by subtalar arthrography. J Orthop Sci. 2007 Jan. 12(1):49-54. [Medline].
Snell R, Smith M. The bony pelvis and lower extremity. Clinical Anatomy for Emergency Medicine. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby-Year Book; 1993. 708-9.
Tochigi Y, Rudert MJ, McKinley TO, Pedersen DR, Brown TD. Correlation of dynamic cartilage contact stress aberrations with severity of instability in ankle incongruity. J Orthop Res. 2008 Sep. 26(9):1186-93. [Medline].