Purpose: Syndesmotic sprains are uncommon injuries that require prolonged recovery. The influence of ultrasound-guided injections of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) into the injured antero-inferior tibio-fibular ligaments (AITFL) in athletes on return to play (RTP) and dynamic stability was studied.
Methods: Sixteen elite athletes with AITFL tears were randomized to a treatment group receiving injections of PRP or to a control group. All patients followed an identical rehabilitation protocol and RTP criteria. Patients were prospectively evaluated for clinical ability to return to full activity and residual pain. Dynamic ultrasound examinations were performed at initial examination and at 6 weeks post-injury to demonstrate re-stabilization of the syndesmosis joint and correlation with subjective outcome.
Results: All patients presented with a tear to the AITFL with dynamic syndesmosis instability in dorsiflexion-external rotation, and larger neutral tibia-fibula distance on ultrasound. Early diagnosis and treatment lead to shorter RTP, with 40.8 (±8.9) and 59.6 (±12.0) days for the PRP and control groups, respectively (p = 0.006). Significantly less residual pain upon return to activity was found in the PRP group; five patients (62.5 %) in the control group returned to play with minor discomfort versus one patient in the treatment group (12.5 %). One patient in the control group had continuous pain and disability and subsequently underwent syndesmosis reconstruction.
Conclusions: Athletes suffering from high ankle sprains benefit from ultrasound-guided PRP injections with a shorter RTP, re-stabilization of the syndesmosis joint and less long-term residual pain.
Level of evidence: II.
Keywords: Injections; Platelet-rich plasma; Return to play; Syndesmosis; Ultrasound.