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J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2007 Mar;51(1):42-9.

Rehabilitation of distal tibiofibular syndesmosis sprains: a case report.

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Faculty of Clinical Education, Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Toronto, Canada.



To present the epidemiology, etiology, diagnostic criteria and therapeutic interventions for an important clinical entity - tibiofibular syndesmosis or "high ankle" sprains.


The most common mechanism of injury is forced external rotation in a dorsiflexed foot. Pain is located anteriorly over the anterior tibiofibular ligament, and is elicited through a variety of tests designed to stress this articulation through diastatic forces. Pain with ambulation is typical, and is usually present during the push-off phase of gait. Radiographs may be useful in determining the extent of this injury, as syndesmotic sprains with malleolar fractures are more common than those without.


Convalescence is generally protracted compared with a lateral ankle sprain, and care must be taken to avoid stressing the supporting ligaments during the early course of therapy. Initial treatment is aimed at reducing pain and inflammation using modalities such as microcurrent, electroacupuncture and P.R.I.C.E. principles. Treatment over subsequent weeks involves progressive resistance exercises, proprioceptive challenges, plyometric exercises and sport-specific agility drills, while maintaining cardiovascular fitness.


The practitioner should also be cognizant of the indolent nature of this injury and possibility for sequelae. Anterior ankle pain and pain with a deep squat or during the push-off phase of gait are typical of this injury. Radiographs to rule out fracture and evaluate the extent of the injury may be warranted. Conservative therapy involving rehabilitation and tissue injury care is appropriate for Grade I and II injuries, while Grade III injuries require a surgical intervention.


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