Dislocated Ankle Information

A dislocated ankle is characterised by significant damage and tearing of the connective tissue surrounding the ankle joint with subsequent displacement of the bones forming the joint. When an ankle becomes dislocated the bones no longer fit nicely together and the joint becomes unstable. 

The ankle joint is made up of three bones:

  • Tibia – the shinbone
  • Fibula – smaller bone of the lower leg

  • Talus – a small bone that sits between the calcaneus (the heel bone) and the tibia and fibula


The joint is surrounded by strong connective tissue known as the joint capsule as well as several ligaments, which provide additional stability to the joint.

When excessive forces beyond what the ankle can withstand are applied to the joint, tearing of the connective tissue can occur. If the forces are more excessive than what the connective tissue can handle the bones are forced out of their normal position and the ankle becomes dislocated.

Since the forces resulting in an ankle dislocation are excessive, a dislocated ankle is often accompanied by other injuries to the foot and ankle such as fractures.


Causes of Ankle Dislocation:

  • Twisting or rotating the ankle side to side
  • Tripping or falling which cause the ankle to roll inwards or outwards
  • Extreme flexing or extending of the joint
  • Rapid change in direction particularly seen in sports such as rugby, soccer, basketball, netball and football


Ankle Dislocation Signs and Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of a dislocated ankle include:

  • Immediate severe pain at the site of the injury. Pain is usually so intense activity cannot be continued and weight bearing is unbearable
  • Sensation of ankle ‘moving out’ at time of injury
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tender to the touch
  • Unable to put weight through the injured foot
  • Obvious physical deformity
  • Loss of movement in ankle


Ankle Dislocation Treatment

An ankle dislocation is confirmed with x-ray. X-ray is also used to assess the severity of the injury and any associated injuries.  Further investigative measures may be required such as a MRI or CT scan.

Treatment of ankle dislocations involve the bones being ‘relocated’. This means they are safely pushed back into place. This should only ever be preformed by an experienced medical professional. An ankle relocation should never be attempted alone as serious long term damage can occur to the structures around the ankle such as the nerves, blood vessels, bones, ligaments and cartilage if the ankle relocation is not performed correctly.

During the procedure the bones are first reduced (repositioned) into their normal alignment. The bones are then positioned and held together by a plate attached to the outer bone using pins and screws. In some cases a screw or rod inserted into the bone may be used to keep the bone fragments together while they heal.

Following surgery a physiotherapy rehabilitation program is prescribed to strengthen the joint and restore it to optimal movement and function. A patient’s  recovery after surgery is largely determined by their commitment to their physiotherapy program.

Many patients who suffer a dislocated ankle are able to return to normal function post surgery. This may take weeks to months depending on the severity of the injury. However, due to the connective tissue damage associated with this injury there can be an increased likelihood of future dislocation or ankle sprain. In the case of recurrent ankle dislocation further surgery may be required to increase the ankle’s stability.