Lateral collateral ligaments of ankle

Injuries to the lateral collateral ligaments account for 85% of ankle sprains in athletes.

The ligament's three components, in order of the frequency of injury:

  1. anterior talofibular (ATF)
  2. calcaneofibular
  3. posterior talofibular

Student questions:

Q: How do you know if you have damaged your anterior talofibular ligament? I have pain in the outside of my ankle on the bone and further up into the lower leg. Particularly painful when I stand on my toes! Is this what is causing the pain? Thanks, HL

A: The pain that you describe could have its source in an injured ligament, but it could also be muscular. A better test of the ligament involves moving the ankle passively, that is, moving it with your hand, not with the leg muscles themselves.

You or another person can move the whole foot in a direction that causes the toes to point downward and inward. If this reproduces the pain, in the absence of any muscle activity, it would point to injury in the anterior talofibular (ATF) ligament.

I also wonder whether you recently turned or "sprained" your ankle. Injury to the ATF ligament is a frequent result of an ankle sprain. In fact, it is the ligament most commonly injured in a sprain.

Last updated 12-10-97 ©Dave Thompson PT
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