The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Lateral Ankle Reconstruction: A New Procedure that Helps Athletes Recover Quickly

Posted by on Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

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The Citizen-Times of North Carolina recently published an article telling the story of Steven Triplett, a Warren Wilson College senior basketball player. Triplett repeatedly injured his ankle playing basketball, which ultimately resulted in is receiving a lateral ligament reconstruction. This surgery enabled Triplett to return to the sport he loves. At The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in Manhattan and White Plains, we treat acute ankle trauma just like the one suffered by Triplett, as well as chronic ankle instability and residual pain. Our team of knowledgeable and experienced podiatric surgeons will explore every option for rehabilitation, whether it’s a slower, non-invasive recovery or a more aggressive surgical approach that takes your future athletic career into consideration.

lateral ankle reconstruction
There are many ligaments and tendons that may sustain damage from an ankle sprain. Image Source: Regenexx.com

How does ankle ligament damage occur?

Steven Triplett’s initial ankle injury was sustained when the 6’5″ power forward came down hard on another player’s foot after fielding a rebound, twisting his ankle in an awkward way. On a pain scale of 1-10, he reported the injury as a 7 or 8. Triplett spent two months in a boot to offload pressure; then he returned to game play. Unfortunately, he quickly re-injured the same ankle. It took six weeks for this second injury to heal, but Triplett noticed that the swelling returned at random intervals, during which he’d have to take a break from walking, due to the accompanying pain. Anti-inflammatory medication wasn’t helping, so Triplett went to an orthopedic surgeon to explore surgical options. Injuries like these are not at all uncommon for those who play sports that require them to twist, turn or pivot on the ankle. Additionally, once an ankle has been injured, the chances of re-injury are incredibly high. In Triplett’s case, the activity required for playing basketball proved to be too much for his already-compromised ankle.

What is lateral ankle reconstruction?

At the Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine, we take diagnostic imaging and perform a physical exam to identify the extent of the damage to the ankle. From there, we may teach you some wrapping techniques, outfit you with a walking boot or put you in a cast. We’ll counsel you on proper techniques for icing, compression, elevation, and pain relief at home. Our team of trained physical therapists will also help you with range-of-motion, strength, and balance training to ensure you return to your full pre-injury abilities. Platelet rich plasma injections may also be used to heal internal damage. Proper ankle sprain care is important in preventing arthritis or persistent pain and stiffness.

The goal of lateral ankle reconstruction is to restore stability to the ankle. When functioning normally, the ligaments connect bone to bone and limit excess motion. However, if a patient’s ankle feels like it is “giving way” while bearing weight, then it’s generally a sign that the ligaments have been damaged and have not healed correctly.

During a lateral ankle reconstruction, a small, two-inch, C- or J-shaped incision is made on the outside of the ankle bone. The surgeon then locates the problematic ligaments, removes the overstretched portions, and them tightens the remaining tissue to the bone using anchors or stitches. The surgeon may attach a tendon to the bones around the ankle, fixing it with stitches or a screw to add greater stability. For minimal scarring and reduced risk of complications, our podiatric surgeons employ a minimally-invasive arthroscopic technique that uses smaller incisions. This method also ensures a speeds recovery in addition to yielding better cosmetic results.

Traditionally, it would take a patient two weeks in a cast to recover from a surgery like this. Most of our patients wear a splint for a week instead, after which the patient transitions to a removable walking boot and athletic ankle brace. Most patients take about a month off work to recover, but it may take longer if your job is physically demanding. After the swelling goes down and pain subsides (around the sixth week), the patient will begin an ankle strengthening program that may go as long as six to twelve months to restore full mobility, strength, and athleticism.

As for Steven Triplett, after having this procedure done on December 26th, he was back to basketball workouts (including running and jumping) by early April, just over three months later. “I’ve never had surgery before and I was expecting…a lot of pain, but there was zero pain. And the incisions now look great. You can barely see them,” he told his local newspaper. He’s now hoping to play European league basketball or earn a spot on the Cleveland Cavaliers upon graduating.

Ankle Sprain Treatment and ligament reconstruction in NYC

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in New York City offers advanced care for ankle injuries and re-injuries. Whether a fracture or a sprain, we have the diagnostic tools to tell the difference. Our staff of board-certified podiatric surgeons offer a full suite of the latest advanced pain and healing therapies, including MLS lasers and platelet rich plasma injections. We’re trained in scar tissue removal and minimally-invasive techniques that get athletes on their feet faster. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert and his team have worked on professional and Olympic athletes, including acute trauma management for major events like the NYC Tri, the Newsweek Tennis Classic, and the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Contact us to schedule your appointment without delay.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.