Objective: To describe the incidence and risk factors for high ankle sprains (ie, syndesmosis injuries) among National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) football players.
Design: Descriptive epidemiologic study. Setting: Data were examined from the NCAA’s Injury Surveillance System (ISS) for 5 football seasons (from 2004-2005 to 2008-2009).
Participants: All NCAA men’s football programs participating in the ISS.
Assessment of Risk Factors: No additional risk factors were introduced as a result of this analysis.
Main Outcome Measures: For partial and complete syndesmo- sis injuries, outcome measures included incidence, time lost from participation, and requirement for surgical repair.
Results: The overall incidence of high ankle sprains in NCAA football players was 0.24 per 1000 athlete exposures, accounting for 24.6% of all ankle sprains. Athletes were nearly 14 times more likely to sustain the injury during games compared with practice; complete syndesmosis injuries resulted in significantly greater time lost compared with partial injuries (31.3 vs 15.8 days). Less than 3% of syndesmosis injuries required surgical intervention. There was a significantly higher injury incidence on artificial surfaces compared with natural grass. The majority of injuries (75.2%) occurred during contact with another player.
Conclusions: Our data suggest a significantly higher incidence of syndesmosis injuries during games, during running plays, and to running backs and interior defensive linemen. The wide range in time lost from participation for complete syndesmosis injuries underscores the need for improved understanding of injury mecha- nism and classification of injury severity such that prevention, safe return to play protocols, and outcomes can be further improved.