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What is an Ankle Dislocation?

By J.M. Willhite
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An ankle dislocation occurs when a bone in the ankle joint is moved out of place. Usually resulting from trauma to the ankle joint, a dislocation is a painful injury which requires prompt medical attention. Treatment generally involves surgery and a recovery period of up to six months.

The ankle joint is comprised of three main bones: the tibia and fibula, both located in the leg, and talus, positioned in the foot. When a dislocation occurs, one or more of these bones may be out of joint. A pure ankle dislocation is a rare occurrence. Normally, ankle dislocations occur in combination with either a fracture or sprain.

A variety of situations can contribute to the occurrence of an ankle dislocation. Individuals involved in sports, like football, gymnastics, or hockey, often sustain dislocations during practice, competition, or game play. Ankle dislocation can also occur during a fall, such as a tumble down the stairs. Trauma such as a direct blow to the ankle area, which is more than the joint can withstand, may result in dislocation.

An individual whose ankle joint has been dislocated will experience symptoms immediately. Not only will the ankle start to swell and bruise, but the individual may be unable to put weight on the ankle as he or she would when standing. In instances where the nerves become pinched, the individual’s foot may tingle and become numb. To prevent further damage, the ankle should not be moved while waiting for medical attention. Ice should be applied to the area to alleviate pain and swelling and prevent fluid buildup.

During a physical examination, the attending physician will generally order an x-ray and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) be conducted. An x-ray is used to evaluate the extent of the damage to the ankle joint, determine the position of the dislocated bone or bones, and rule out the possibility of fractures. The MRI is utilized to evaluate the extent of damage to the soft tissues surrounding the dislocation.

Treatment for ankle dislocation generally involves surgical relocation of the joint. Once the joint is repositioned, screws and pins are used to hold the bones in place for proper healing. After two to three months, the screws and pins are removed or, in extreme cases, the instrumentation may be permanent. Recovery following surgery generally lasts four to six months. If surgery is not conducted, it can take in the vicinity of one year for the dislocation to heal.

Ankle dislocations can be prevented with the use of ankle supports, braces, or other protective gear. Sufficient time should be taken to warm up prior to any activity to prevent dislocations. Once an individual experiences an ankle dislocation, he or she may be more susceptible to future ankle problems. Complications associated with ankle dislocations include infection, ligament calcification, and arthritis.

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Discussion Comments
By Heavanet — On Sep 17, 2014

@rundocuri- Your nephew could have a very minor ankle dislocation that could get much worse if he keeps walking on it. You should advise him to quit putting weight on it and make an appointment with his doctor for x-rays as soon as possible.

By Talentryto — On Sep 16, 2014

@rundocuri- It sounds more like your nephew has an ankle sprain, not a dislocated ankle. I think he would be in more pain, and unable to even stand on his foot if his ankle were totally dislocated.

Even though your nephew's problem might not be as serious as an ankle dislocation, he should still take his problem seriously. Making a trip to his doctor should be his next step to avoid further damage and discomfort.

By Rundocuri — On Sep 16, 2014

My nephew got injured playing baseball a few weeks ago, and I think that his ankle may be dislocated. His is still walking on it, but is being stubborn about going to the doctor. If it were dislocated, would he be able to get around on it?

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