Ankle Dislocation

Ankle dislocation is a severe injury that occurs when the bones in the ankle joint are forced out of their normal positions. This condition can be extremely painful and requires immediate medical attention. This article will discuss the causes, symptoms, imaging and treatment options for ankle dislocation.

What is an Ankle Dislocation?

Ankle dislocation happens when the tibia and fibula (the bones of the lower leg) are displaced from the talus (the bone in the foot). This displacement can be caused by a variety of factors, including severe trauma, sports injuries, or accidents. The force needed to dislocate the ankle is typically significant, often resulting in associated injuries such as fractures, ligament tears, and damage to surrounding tissues.

Symptoms of Ankle Dislocation

The symptoms of an ankle dislocation include:

1. Severe Pain

The pain from an ankle dislocation is often immediate and intense. It may be accompanied by a throbbing sensation and can worsen with any movement.

2. Swelling and Bruising

Swelling and bruising around the ankle joint are common symptoms. The area may appear visibly distorted or misshapen.

3. Inability to Move the Ankle

An individual with a dislocated ankle will likely find it impossible to move the joint. The range of motion is significantly reduced due to the dislocation and associated pain.

4. Visible Deformity

In some cases, the dislocation may cause a visible deformity in the ankle joint. The bones may appear out of place or protrude abnormally.

Causes of Ankle Dislocation

Ankle dislocations can result from various causes, each requiring significant force to displace the bones. Common causes include:

1. Sports Injuries

High-impact sports such as football, basketball, and soccer can lead to ankle dislocations. Rapid changes in direction, collisions, and falls are common scenarios where dislocations occur.

2. Motor Vehicle Accidents

Car accidents can cause severe trauma to the lower extremities, including ankle dislocations. The impact force can be substantial enough to dislocate the ankle joint.

3. Falls

Falls from significant heights can result in ankle dislocations. The force of the fall can cause the bones to displace from their normal positions.

Diagnosis of Ankle Dislocation

Proper diagnosis is essential for effective treatment of an ankle dislocation. Medical professionals typically use the following methods:

1. Physical Examination

A physical examination by a healthcare provider involves assessing the appearance and mobility of the ankle joint. The provider will look for visible deformities, swelling, and bruising.

2. Imaging Tests

Imaging plays an important role in diagnosing and managing ankle dislocations.  The following imaging tests are often used:


**X-rays** are the most commonly used imaging technique for diagnosing ankle dislocations. They provide clear images of the bones and can quickly reveal the displacement of the bones in the ankle joint.

Benefits of X-Rays:

1. **Quick Diagnosis**: X-rays can be performed rapidly, allowing for immediate assessment and diagnosis of the dislocation.
2. **Bone Structure Visualization**: They provide detailed images of the bone structures, making it easier to identify fractures or misalignments.
3. **Non-Invasive**

CT Scans

**Computed Tomography (CT) scans** offer a more detailed view of the ankle joint compared to traditional X-rays. They use a combination of X-ray images taken from different angles to create cross-sectional images of the bones and surrounding structures.

Benefits of CT Scans:

1. **Detailed Images**: CT scans provide highly detailed images, allowing for better evaluation of complex fractures and the exact positioning of the dislocated bones.
2. **3D Visualization**: They offer three-dimensional views of the ankle, which can be important for surgical planning and precise alignment of the bones.

MRI Scans

**Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)** scans use strong magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed images of the ankle’s soft tissues, including ligaments, tendons, and cartilage.

Benefits of MRI Scans:

1. **Soft Tissue Visualization**: MRI scans are highly effective in visualizing soft tissue injuries, which are often associated with ankle dislocations.
2. **No Radiation**: Unlike X-rays and CT scans, MRI scans do not use ionizing radiation, making them a safer option for repeated imaging.

Importance of Imaging in Ankle Dislocation

Imaging is essential in several stages of managing an ankle dislocation:


Imaging confirms the presence and severity of the dislocation. It helps distinguish between simple dislocations and those involving fractures or severe ligament damage.

Treatment Planning

Accurate imaging is important for planning the treatment approach. For instance, the decision between non-surgical reduction and surgical intervention often depends on the detailed images provided by X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs.

Monitoring Recovery

Follow-up imaging is used to monitor the healing process. It ensures that the bones remain in proper alignment and that any fractures or soft tissue injuries are healing as expected.

Identifying Complications

Imaging helps identify complications such as improper bone healing, joint instability, or the development of post-traumatic arthritis.

Treatment Options for Ankle Dislocation

Treating an ankle dislocation involves several steps to ensure proper healing and prevent long-term complications. Treatment options include:

1. Immediate First Aid

Immediate first aid is crucial to stabilize the injury and minimize damage. Key steps include:

– Immobilizing the ankle with a splint or brace.
– Applying ice to reduce swelling and pain.
– Elevating the ankle to decrease swelling.

2. Medical Treatment

Medical treatment for ankle dislocation often involves:

– **Reduction**: A healthcare provider will perform a reduction to reposition the dislocated bones. This procedure is typically done under anesthesia to minimize pain.
– **Surgery**: In severe cases or when there are associated fractures, surgery may be necessary to repair the damage. Surgical intervention aims to realign the bones and stabilize the joint.
– **Immobilization**: After reduction or surgery, the ankle may be immobilized with a cast, brace, or splint to facilitate healing.

3. Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation is a critical component of recovery. It involves physical therapy exercises to restore strength, flexibility, and range of motion in the ankle joint. A tailored rehabilitation plan helps individuals regain normal function and return to daily activities.


Ankle dislocation is a serious injury that requires prompt medical attention and appropriate treatment for effective recovery. Recognizing the symptoms and understanding the causes can help in responding quickly and in reducing risk of complications. With proper medical care and rehabilitation individuals can recover from an ankle dislocation.

Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

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