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What is the Anterior Talofibular Ligament?

By Shelby Miller
Updated May 17, 2024
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The anterior talofibular ligament is a band of connective tissue located along the outside of the ankle joint. It originates on the fibular malleolus, the bony protrusion on the outside of the ankle joint, and then runs forward and inward to connect to the talus bone. The talus bone is an irregularly shaped bone in the foot that articulates with the tibia and fibula bones of the lower leg, forming the ankle joint. Because the anterior talofibular ligament crosses the outside or lateral aspect of the ankle joint, it is the ligament in the body most commonly sprained, typically when the foot is rolled to the outside.

Located adjacent to a number of other ligaments in the ankle, including the posterior talofibular ligament, the anterior talofibular ligament is similarly responsible for maintaining stability in ankle joint, protecting it from unpredictable outside forces. The ankle joint, the intersection of the tibia, fibula, and talus bones, is a synovial hinge joint only capable of front-to-back movement: dorsiflexion and plantarflexion. It is not intended to allow for side-to-side movement, so the ligaments protect it by absorbing lateral forces acting on the joint.

The ankle is best adapted to forward movements like walking and jogging, so performing activities like running on uneven terrain or cutting sideways while playing soccer can leave the joint vulnerable to injury from rolling or twisting. When this happens, the anterior talofibular ligament commonly takes the brunt of the impact by stretching to the point of tearing. This is known as a sprained ankle, and it has been observed that 85 percent of ankle sprains occur at the lateral, or outer, aspect of the joint. As such, the ligaments running down from the fibula bone and crossing the outside of the ankle, like the anterior and posterior talofibular ligaments, are most susceptible to injury.

Sprains to the anterior talofibular ligament can range from mild, in which the ligament is stretched beyond its normal range, to moderate, in which it may be slightly torn, to severe, in which it may be completely torn. Immediately after an injury, ecommended treatment includes rest, icing, compression, and elevation (RICE), regardless of the severity of the injury. A walking cast may be needed to support and keep weight off the joint as it heals. Depending on the severity of the sprain, it may be several weeks or several months before the individual may be allowed to return to exercise.

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Discussion Comments

By anon339943 — On Jun 28, 2013

I changed from running flat cross country to uphill running, which zig-zags up hill to the top. I started this type of running last spring and now my ankles seem tender after each run.

By anon297487 — On Oct 16, 2012

What can you do to prevent injuries to the anterior talofibular ligament? Whenever I run the next day I seem to have damaged what I've researched to be my ATL. Sometimes it's not too bad and takes two or three days to feel OK to run again but sometimes it's been seven to 10 days or more. I'm wondering whether new shoes with more support would help?

By anon251361 — On Feb 29, 2012

What percent of partially torn talofibular ligament tears result in permanent ankle weakness and instability? Is four weeks of supervised therapy enough for a complete return to tennis?

By sunshined — On Oct 31, 2011

If you have ever had a sprained ankle injury, you know how painful this can be. I have heard that an ankle sprain can be just as painful as a broken bone and can even take longer to heal.

After experiencing this, I agree with this statement. Once while playing volleyball outside in the yard, I twisted my ankle and immediately knew it was going to be bad.

I put ice on it right away, and kept it elevated, but other than that, all I could do was give it time. There wasn't anything the doctor could do about the sprain.

It took a long time for the swelling to go down and my ankle turned all colors of black, blue and yellow. I couldn't even wear my regular shoes for several weeks.

It was many months before I felt like I had the strength in my ankle that was there before and there are times when I still find myself favoring it.

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