What is a Lateral Ankle Ligament?

B. Schreiber

A lateral ankle ligament is any of the three tissue bands that connect one of the leg bones, the fibula, to the bones of the foot. These bands of tissue stretch from the end of the fibula in the leg to two separate bones in the foot. The ligaments are necessary to stabilize the ankle and allow it to endure the forces passed through it from the foot. These ligaments are the ligaments most commonly involved in ankle sprains.

The lateral ankle ligament connects the fibula to bones in the foot.
The lateral ankle ligament connects the fibula to bones in the foot.

In anatomical vocabulary, lateral refers to features located on the outside of the body or away from the center of the body. Ligaments are a strong connective tissue that can withstand some stretching. They connect bones to other bones, as each lateral ankle ligament does. In this case, each lateral ankle ligament attaches to the end of the fibula. The end of the fibula is flared, and is visible as the bulge on the outside of the ankle.

Ligaments helps stabilize the ankle joint.
Ligaments helps stabilize the ankle joint.

Specifically, the lateral ankle ligaments include the anterior talofibular, calcaneofibular, and posterior talofibular ligaments. The prefixes indicate which bone each ligament is attached to in the foot. The foot bones include the talus, known as the ankle bone, and the calcaneus, called the heel bone. The flared end of the fibula is known anatomically as the lateral malleolus. The ankle is an example of a hinge joint and is known anatomically as the talocrural joint.

The ankle is the joint most likely to be injured in the leg, and ankle sprains are the most reported sports injury. A sprain occurs when a ligament of a joint is overstretched or torn. In ankle sprains, the stretched ligament is usually a lateral ankle ligament. The calcaneofibular ligament, connecting the the fibula to the heel bone, is the most common site of overstretching. After that, the anterior talofibular is the most frequently torn.

Ankle sprains are most likely to happen when weight falls heavily onto the outside edge of the foot. In an ankle sprain, a lateral ankle ligament is usually only overstretched but can also be completely torn. A completely torn ligament is in need of prompt surgical care. Otherwise, the acronym RICE, which can be applied to sprains in any joint, will help heal the joint and reduce pain. It stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

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