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Symptoms and Signs of Dislocated Ankle (Ankle Dislocation)

Doctor's Notes on Dislocated Ankle (Ankle Dislocation)

The ankle is a joint comprised of the distal parts of the tibia and fibula plus the foot's bone termed the talus along with associated structures like ligaments. A dislocated ankle occurs when one or more of the ankle joint bones are displaced from their normal location by blunt trauma to the ankle. Although there are several types of ankle dislocations (for example, posterior, anterior, lateral, superior), the most common is a posterior dislocation of the talus. Pain at the time of injury is usually the first sign along with difficulty walking or standing. Swelling and bruising usually occur along with a deformity of the ankle joint. Numbness and tingling of the foot may occur. If the foot appears pale with slow capillary filling, the vasculature to the foot may be damaged and may require a quick reduction of the ankle to save the foot. Unfortunately, many dislocated ankles include one or more bone fractures.

The common causes of a dislocated ankle are

  • auto accidents,
  • falls, and
  • sports injuries.

Being involved with these activities increases the risk to develop a dislocated ankle. Patients who have medical problems that include joint laxity are at increased risk of developing ankle dislocations. Imaging techniques like X-rays, CT, and others can help diagnose the type of dislocated ankle the patient may have. A doctor should perform a reduction (putting the bones back in their normal position) quickly to avoid complications like

  • chronic pain,
  • reduced or loss of range of motion, and
  • joint instability.

However, reduction may not be possible in some patients. Such individuals usually require surgical reduction and repair.

Medical Author: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Medically Reviewed on 12/10/2019

Dislocated Ankle (Ankle Dislocation) Symptoms

Due to the significant trauma causing these injuries, there is associated significant pain and swelling.

People may note bruising. An inability to walk is common.

The ankle appears deformed and is painful to palpation.

If the dislocation damaged nerves, numbness or tingling can be present.

Because the dislocation can disrupt the blood flow to the foot, the foot can appear pale and show delayed capillary filling. These are indications for prompt reduction of the injury.

Dislocated Ankle (Ankle Dislocation) Causes

A force moving the foot backward in relationship to the tibia and fibula causes a posterior dislocation (the most common ankle dislocation). Usually, the ankle is flexed backward (plantar flexed) as the trauma happens. As with all ankle dislocations, a significant force is needed to dislocate the foot. Motor vehicle accidents, falls, and sports injuries are the most common causes.

Anterior dislocations occur when something forces the foot to move anteriorly.

Lateral dislocations are due to inversion, eversion, or external and internal rotation of the ankle. This twisting motion usually results in a fracture in addition to the dislocation.

Superior dislocation is usually due to a fall from heights that pushes the talus upward. Frequently, there are related injuries especially to the patient's spine.

Foot Health Causes of Swollen Feet and Ankles Slideshow

Foot Health Causes of Swollen Feet and Ankles Slideshow

Swollen feet may be painful, uncomfortable, and can make it hard to walk. Swollen feet happen for a variety of reasons. Several medical conditions may cause the symptom. Luckily, once you know the underlying cause of swollen feet, you can take steps to feel better. Read on to learn more about the most common conditions that cause feet to swell up.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.