OT: anyone with any info on torn ligaments in the ankle?

Submitted by Monkey House on June 16th, 2016 at 12:45 PM
Hey I was looking for a little help from anyone that might have had a similar injury or anyone in the medical field that might have some insight. I recently rolled my left ankle pretty badly and had a MRI yesterday. It came back that I tore the ligament on the top of my ankle that runs from the top of my foot to my leg. I guess my question is does this always required surgery? How long is the recovery? Any info or tips on this would be much appreciated. Thanks.



June 16th, 2016 at 3:56 PM ^

Anterior Talofibular Ligament ATFL, even though it is completely torn it should heal back down. The surgeries are to fix what happens when it doesn't. This would be a grade III sprain which means the ligament is torn, grade II it is just stretched.

Gucci Mane

June 16th, 2016 at 12:50 PM ^

In high school basketball I tore the ligament partially off my foot which chipped a few pieces of bone off along with it. I had a cast for 3 weeks, walking boot for 3 weeks, then I started physically therapy. My advice would be make sure you do the PT and make sure you go to a highly qualified place. I went to UofM Medsport and I thought they did great.

I Like Burgers

June 16th, 2016 at 12:56 PM ^

Taking the PT seriously and finding a good PT is the best advice here.  I tore my achilles and my physical thereapist was dogshit.  Just gave me some drills to do on my own, rarely checked in on me in the hour+ I was there, and I wound up quitting after a month or two because I could do the same drills on my own at home.  No need to spend money if they weren't actually helping me.

I should have looked to find a different PT place, because it wound up delaying my return to normal.  The tendon wound up being fine, but it took a lot longer than it should have to get the strength back, which leads to your body naturally compensating for the weaker leg, which leads to other issues like knee, hip, and back problems.

tl;dr Find a good PT, and take it serious. If they suck, find another one.


June 16th, 2016 at 12:54 PM ^

It doesn't always require surgery. There are 3 ligaments on that side of the foot that give the ankle lateral support. Best case scenario is to go to PT and strengthen the muscles around the ankle joint. In turn that will help to support that injured ligament.


June 16th, 2016 at 2:59 PM ^

I got the same advice when I injured my left ankle ten years ago. I was poor and had no insurance so surgery wasn't happening. Was in a boot and off it for almost 2 months. I am probably 98% of what it was a decade later but it still hurts some days. Take your PT VERY seriously if you aren't going to get surgery. Don't end up like me.


June 16th, 2016 at 12:54 PM ^

It sounds like you're talking about you anterior talofibular ligament, is that right? If it is completely torn then surgery is probably the best route. It will leave your ankle very unstable if you don't fix it. I've seen athletes return to moderate activity 3-4 weeks after this type surgery

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June 16th, 2016 at 12:57 PM ^

The 1st thing you should do is take your MRI to an orthopedic surgeon. The MRI report that the MRI place gives you is not necessairly the best and the reader may not specialize in feet/ ankles.

The surgeon will either recommend surgery or physical therapy and follow-up visits. 

Also, do this ASAP as if you don't know of a surgeon, look a few up from your insurer's website.


June 16th, 2016 at 4:04 PM ^

I had a similar injury many moons ago and attempted growing them. What I did not know at the time is that torn ligaments prefer sandy, loamy soil and where I live there is nothing but clay. Since ligaments try to form a deep root system, it struggled for a few seasons but couldn't withstand the winters ultimately. 


June 16th, 2016 at 1:11 PM ^

I'd say a good physical therapist/sports medicine is the best thing for quick recovery.

I've broken and sprained my ankles around 20 times where I had X-Ray's never had an MRI though, maybe I'm poor or something, just never have they sugggested an MRI.

Unless it's a very very severe tear or completely torn(in which case surgery, ask an orthopedic), you'll keep off of it crutches or walking boot, this part is important but the most important part is easing yourself back into using it and working on mobility and strength as soon as it's safe to.

Otherwise you'll just sit back wait for it to heal then likely reinjure it because the tendon will be healed but you'll have no flexibility or strength.

NOTE:  Do not hop off your crutches wrap it twice, take 6 tylenol then play goalie 2 weeks later.

** source experience


June 16th, 2016 at 1:10 PM ^

I have had that injury, luckily I did not need a surgery but I couldn't walk for a month and after that it felt flimsy. I felt comfortable running and walking after around 4 months.


June 16th, 2016 at 1:20 PM ^

it recommended large amounts of alcohol, pain killers, special brownies, rest and Michigan games on repeat.

Sounds like a winning combo....


June 16th, 2016 at 1:42 PM ^

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June 16th, 2016 at 1:51 PM ^

I recommend the MRI and orthopedic surgeon review above. I was poor and without medical insurance when I had my issue so I didn't do it though.

I tore ligament in my ankle and it is still sore 3 years later on both sides if I run 2 miles a day for more than 3 days.

I have been going to a naturopathic doctor these days (certified ND, not a hippie certificate) who has been doing the platelet reconstruction thing using my own centrifuged blood. I like that it is not surgery. I've gone twice now and it is tons better. I'll go a third time soon and I'm thrilled that I'm much more able to compete athletically now.

Doctors don't always recommend PRP because it takes you away from their network, but a few talk about it. My girlfriends surgeon mentioned it for her knee. She ruined it in waterskiing and now she can play sports again after PRP (and walk up/down stairs without loud crunching!). She also needs a third treatment coming soon, but she no longer complains daily about it.

Good luck. Don't let it affect you for years like me.


June 16th, 2016 at 2:11 PM ^

You do not need surgery. Treatment for an ankle sprain is immobilization for a few days until swelling goes down and then functional PT. With a complete tear ie grade III you are looking at 3-6 weeks.

An MRI is not warranted unless you have pain for 8-12 weeks. A tear of an ankle ligament guessing ATFL is an ankle sprain. Primary care doctors always order them and it freaks people out. It is good news if there is no cartilage injury. Otherwise an MRI is just gonna tell you you sprained your ankle.

The only reason you would need surgery is if your ankle is still unstable in 6 months. I would not think about PRP at this moment, that would be something to possibly consider in 6 months.

Go to PT and if not better in 3 months go see a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon.




June 16th, 2016 at 2:40 PM ^

Mine was only partially torn.  I initially tried to "walk it off" and after a few weeks went to see a podiatrist (bad move) who took x-rays and put me in a walking boot for 4 weeks.  After the 4 weeks it still wasn't better and then I saw an orthopedic doctor who administered a cortizone shot and prescribed an ankle/foot brace with the disclaimer "it is already mostly healed, it will continue to heal, but it will always be noticable".

It took a solid 2 years before I could do my job and coach without a brace, and just this year I have stopped wearing my brace for my job, but still wear it when I coach.  I am a large former offensive linemen so that also have hampered my healing process.  I still notice mine when walking on inclines.  Hope yours is better than mine.


June 16th, 2016 at 2:49 PM ^

1) I'll echo some similar thoughts here. Get the MRI. It's the gold standard test evaluating a soft tissue injury of this sort. Get an X-Ray as well to rule out any bone compromise/chips/fractures

2) Take it to a foot/ankle specialist for evaluation. A good specialist would order the imaging tests before treating you anyway.

3) Specialist will probably recommend PT/rehab first (stronlgy encouraged) or surgery if the MRI idicates a full tear.

4) Only consider a surgical intervention if your conservative options (PT, injections, etc.) fail first.