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Humans are able to move around and accomplish many things in life thanks to the many bodies system. One of the body systems that people always take for granted is the body movement. There are many things that can be done when the body is able to move freely and efficiently such as walking and running. Apart from this, the system that controls the body movement enables a person to stand or sit without falling to the ground and provide body stability. You might ask a doctor what to do if there is something wrong with the body movement. In this article, we will be learning about one of the structures important for the ankle, known as the deltoid ligament.

Deltoid ligament is a band of connective tissue. Deltoid ligament can be considered as a stabiliser for the inner ankle. It is one of the many ankle ligaments supporting the ankle joint. The deltoid ligament is located in the lower leg and connects several bones of the feet and the leg. The name deltoid itself belongs to the word ‘delta’, the 4th letter of the Greek alphabet in uppercase that is shaped like a triangle. Hence, the deltoid ligament is in a triangular shape. It is made up of 4 ligaments known as the medial collateral ligaments which are ligaments of the inside of the ankle. Deltoid ligament has two layers which are one deep within the ankle and another one closer to the skin surface.

There are many functions of the deltoid ligament. The main function is to provide stability for the ankle by connecting to the leg bone and feet bone. Another function is to prevent the feet bone from shifting to an unusual position and acts as force absorption once the feet step on the ground. Beside these functions, deltoid ligament prevents the foot from over-rotating or the ankle to roll inward. It also acts as a counterbalance to the ligaments of the outside of the ankle.

Injuries to the deltoid ligament are rare as it accounts only 15% of most ankle sprains cases. This is because the way for it to be injured is usually after an unusual event such as in athletes extending and articulating the foot such as in gymnastic and football or direct impact to the ankle such as in road accidents. Apart from these events, a person is likely to get deltoid ligament ankle sprains when they have a history of ankle injuries, lack of coordination due to poor physical conditioning or wearing shoes providing insufficient support that cause sideway motion.

Symptoms of deltoid ligament sprain are similar with any other ankle sprain such as bruising, swelling of the ankle, difficulty to stand due to inability of bearing weight, difficulty walking, hearing a ‘pop’ sound at the time of the injury and trouble moving the ankle. In severe cases, a person may not feel any sensation of the ankle area or numbness. What makes it different for any other ankle sprain and ankle sprain caused by the deltoid ligament injury is patients tend to have flatfoot (a condition of the arches on the inside of the feet flattens when a person stand making the feet flat on the ground) that has not be presented before.

Treatments for deltoid ligament sprains are similar to common ankle sprain. Performing the RICE protocol right after an injury or suspected sprain can help heal the sprain quickly. RICE is done by Rest: avoid ankle movement such as not walking, Ice: use cold compress on the injured ankle by doing in for at least 15 minutes to 30 minutes that can be repeated 2 to 3 times a day, Compression: use bandage od dressing to support the injured ankle and to immobilise it and Elevate: raise the ankle above the chest level for the first 48 hours simply by placing pillow underneath the ankle. Beside the RICE protocol, over-the-counter (OTC) medicine such as painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs should be able to alleviate pain and the swelling.

However, should the symptoms persist even after RICE protocol and taking OTC medications or signs of severe pain, numbness, blue coloured and cold feet, these are signs that a person needs immediate medical care as this could be an emergency case. Treatments such as surgery may be only recommended in severe cases of deltoid ligament tears. Other treatments such as physical therapy may be prescribed by a doctor to help regain strength and mobility.

Although it is true that deltoid ligament injuries may not be fully prevented, there are ways that should help minimise chances of getting such injuries. This includes:

  • Doing proper body warm up and stretches before any physical activity especially vigorous one such as sports.
  • Do exercises that maintain good conditioning, muscle strength and flexibility. Balance training activity should be able to help achieve this.
  • Wear proper shoes and protective gear.
  • Use ankle support such as brace, tape or warm to prevent further injury especially if a person has ankle injuries.

Deltoid ligament plays an important role in the ankle stability and mobility. Injury to the deltoid ligament is rare but just as with any other ankle sprain, can cause great discomfort to the person experiencing it. Taking preventative measures before doing physical activity such as sports can help to reduce the likelihood of getting injury.

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