Almost everyone knows the cringing experience of rolling an ankle — it's the most common injury in the United States, hitting 25,000 people a day.
For most, a sprain will heal on its own without the need for a surgerical repair. But for about 10 percent to 20 percent of people, the ankle will not heal properly, causing a situation where it's unstable and prone to continued spraining.
How that surgery is performed is key to a full a recovery, doctors at Duke University Medical Center report.
Delicate ligaments need to be restored to their pre-sprain condition, explains Dr. James A. Nunley, division chief of the department of orthopaedic surgery at Duke University Medical Center.
For years, he says, surgeons took a shortcut and used nearby tendons to repair sprains. That turned out to create long-term problems, and many surgeons are now focusing on repairing ligaments properly.
That will help many patients avoid developing arthritis — a common result when joint injuries are not resolved correctly.
Nunley and a team at Duke have launched a study they hope will clarify how ligament repair improves the long-term prognosis for patients. They presented early findings last week showing how an unhealed ankle rotates in a chronically unstable fashion.
Next year, they hope to report on how surgery has fixed the problem.
"We hope they will avoid arthritis," Nunley, "if we can restore the normal anatomy and normal movement."