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Posterior Ankle Impingement

Posterior ankle impingement affects ballet dancers, gymnasts, footballers and, in some cases, fast bowlers (in the front or landing leg). During the movement of ‘plantar flexion’, the foot and ankle are pointed away as far as possible from the body, and the ankle is compressed. This can lead to tissue damage and pain if the movement is repeated too often or with too much force. Examples include: pointe work during dancing, kicking a ball, walking or running (particularly downhill), jumping, and hopping.

How is posterior ankle impingement caused?

Pain at the back of the ankle is caused by the bone or soft tissue being compressed during ‘plantar flexion’ where the foot and ankle are pointed away from the body. Impingement can be due to poorly managed rehabilitation after an injury and can also be caused by bone spurs (bony lumps) and arthritis.

What are the signs of posterior ankle impingement?

Signs include sharp pain at the back of the ankle during activities where you point your feet outwards and swelling, as well as aching afterwards, when you are resting the foot.

How is posterior ankle impingement diagnosed?

During your first appointment, you’ll have an opportunity to discuss your symptoms with Mr Heidari, who will be able to advise you on the best course of treatment. He may also arrange for you to have X-rays along with an MRI scan to show the injury in greater detail and back up the diagnosis.

What does treatment involve?

In most cases, people who have posterior ankle impingement don’t need to have surgery. Resting, applying an ice pack regularly, using a compression bandage and raising your ankle above your heart as much as possible should help to ease the pain and swelling. You may also be offered steroid injections into the joint to reduce pain and swelling.

Mr Heidari may also suggest you follow a personalised rehabilitation plan, working with one of our physiotherapists to restore muscle strength and range of movement so you can return to your sport as soon as possible.

If you need surgery, this may involve removing any bone spurs (bony lumps) in the ankle or soft tissue that is affecting the joint, using arthroscopy.

This information is written as a guide to your treatment but it is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Please contact us for advice if you are worried about any aspect of your health or recovery.