Ankle dislocation

By Kathryn Trumble, DPT, ATC

An ankle dislocation is a severe ankle injury that requires immediate medical attention.  A dislocation is a separation of 2 or more bones that create a joint.  An ankle dislocation can occur in sporting events or even with “trip and fall” injuries.

Graphic showing the bones of the foot.

Diagram of the anatomy of the foot.

Ankle Anatomy

The ankle consists of 3 main bones that come together to form the ankle or talocrual joint.

  • Tibia: Larger shin bone is the top of the ankle joint and extends down to the inside part of the ankle.
  • Fibula: Smaller shin bone that extends down to the outside part of the ankle.
  • Talus: A smaller bone that sits between the tibia and fibula.

The ankle is a stable joint due to the structure of the joint. The talus sits like a keystone between the tibia and fibula, allowing the foot to move up and down. These movements are called plantar flexion and dorsiflexion and are required for any standing or walking activity. Many ligaments and muscles/tendons also stabilize the ankle.  These structures can be stretched or torn during this type of injury.

Causes of an Ankle Dislocation

An ankle dislocation occurs by a significant injury such as in sports or falls.  Below are a few causes of an ankle dislocation.

  • Trip and fall causing the ankle to be pointed and rolled.
  • Significant blow during a sporting activity like football.
  • Quick and sudden change in direction with sports.
  • Motor vehicle accident.

Signs and Symptoms of an Ankle Dislocation

These can include but are not limited to, the following:

  • Significant pain in the foot/ankle.
  • Difficulty putting weight on the foot/ankle.
  • Deformity and fractures present.
  • Significant swelling/heat in the area.
The Ankle Joint Anatomy

The ankle joint, tendons of the ankle joint foot anatomy vector illustration eps 10 infographic

Diagnosis of an Ankle Dislocation.

With a deformity, no additional diagnostics may be needed.  For less severe injuries with no deformity, imaging such as an X-ray or CT scan/MRI may be necessary.  In addition to just diagnosing the dislocation, imaging may be needed to assess any soft tissue injuries or fractures.

Treatment of an Ankle Dislocation

If you have any of the signs and symptoms listed above, seek immediate medical attention. It is best to try to splint or protect the ankle and no weight on the foot/ankle.  If you are diagnosed with an ankle dislocation, you will most likely need surgery to relocate the bone and stabilize any fractures.  Other bone or soft tissues will be damaged in some cases, and these structures will need to be fixed in the surgical procedure.


    • Following surgery, you will be placed in a cast or walking boot to give your injured ankle support. You will also not be able to put weight into the injured leg, so crutches, a walker, and a scooter will be needed.
    • During this time, you may attend physical therapy, depending on the severity of the injury and your medical doctor’s preferences.
    • Once you are allowed to start putting weight into the injured leg, you will need to re-learn how to walk correctly.
    • Physical therapy will help with walking, strengthen the ankle/leg, and help with balance.

Long term considerations

  • You may have residual stiffness in the ankle, especially if you fractured a bone and needed the fracture repaired.
  • You may also have residual loosening on the soft tissues (ligaments/tendons/muscles) due to these being stretched during the injury.
  • Healing times are different from person to person. It is important to follow the direction of medical professionals for optimal healing.  Poor diet, smoking, diabetes, and other health problems can lead to slower healing times and slower recovery!

JOI Fracture and Injury Care Services

To schedule an appointment with one of our JOI Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Specialists, please call JOI-2000, schedule online, or click below.

Author: Kathryn Trumble, DPT, ATC

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