Purpose of review
The purpose of this review is to discuss the epidemiology, pathoanatomy, diagnosis, and treatment for lateral ankle instability in pediatric patients.
Chronic ankle instability is a common sequela of lateral ankle sprain in young athletes. Incidence is increasing, possibly due in part to inadequate treatment of first-time ankle sprains, as well as increased youth participation in organized and competitive sports. The anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) is injured in every case, whereas the calcaneofibular ligament (CFL) and syndesmosis may be involved in severe cases. A clinical history, focused physical exam, and appropriate radiographic studies aid in diagnosis, and predisposing factors must be identified. Early treatment of ankle sprains involves bracing or immobilization, followed by a course of physical therapy. Surgery involves anatomic repair of the torn ligaments, and may be required in cases of severe functional and mechanical instability with recurrent sprains refractory to nonsurgical management. Intraarticular disorders should be identified and may be addressed with ankle arthroscopy.
Prompt treatment of lateral ankle instability in young athletes is important to prevent chronic ankle instability. Many patients are successfully treated without surgery, and those requiring operative intervention improve function postoperatively.