Recurrent subluxation of the peroneal tendons

Sports Med. 2006;36(10):839-46. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200636100-00003.


Recurrent peroneal tendon subluxation is an uncommon sports-related injury. The retrofibular groove is formed not by the concavity of the fibula itself, but by a relatively pronounced ridge of collagenous soft tissue blended with the periosteum that extends along the posterolateral lip of the distal fibula. The shape of the groove is primarily determined by this thick fibrocartilagenous periosteal cushion, and not by the bone itself. The superior peroneal retinaculum is extremely variable in width, thickness and insertional patterns. Peroneal tendon subluxation is commonly associated with longitudinal splits in the peroneus brevis tendon and lateral ankle instability. Disruption of the lateral collateral ankle ligaments places considerable strain on the superior peroneal retinaculum. This explains why the two conditions commonly coexist. In recurrent subluxation, patients usually give a history of previous ankle injury, which may have been misdiagnosed as a sprain. An unstable ankle that gives way or is associated with a popping or snapping sensation is another common complaint. The peroneal tendons may actually be seen subluxing anteriorly on the distal fibula during ambulation. The role of imaging has been debated, and the diagnosis and management plan are based on clinical evidence. Conservative management may be attempted in acute dislocations, and can be successful in up to 50% of patients, although there is a trend for operative management in athletes. Recurrent dislocations should be managed surgically. Five basic categories of repair have been described: (i) anatomical reattachment of the retinaculum; (ii) bone-block procedures; (iii) reinforcement of the superior peroneal retinaculum with local tissue transfers; (iv) rerouting the tendons behind the calcaneofibular ligament; and (v) groove deepening procedures. However, it is impossible to determine from the relatively small series which procedure is superior. If an anatomical approach to treating the pathology is utilised, reattachment of the superior retinaculum seems a most appropriate technique. Randomised controlled trials may be the way forward in determining the best surgical management method. However, the relative rarity of the condition and the large number of techniques described make such study difficult.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ankle Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Ankle Injuries / surgery
  • Humans
  • Joint Dislocations* / diagnosis
  • Tendon Injuries / diagnosis
  • Tendon Injuries / surgery*