Fifteen out of 16 elite athletes showed concomitant low-grade cartilage lesions of the ankle with unstable syndesmotic injuries: Concerns from a prospective case series

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Objectives This study aimed to determine the incidence rate and characterise the location and severity of cartilage lesions in the ankle in elite athletes undergoing suture-button stabilisation for unstable distal syndesmotic injuries using needle arthroscopic examination. The feasibility and safety of ad hoc needle arthroscopy and its assisted interventions were also assessed. Methods This prospective case series included elite athletes undergoing surgical stabilisation between April 2021 and June 2023. Procedures involved suture button fixation and needle arthroscopy, conducted by a single ankle fellow-trained surgeon. Ankle cartilage lesions were graded using the Cheng and Ferkel classification and located using the nine-zone grid. The study followed the STROBE statement. Results This study included 16 elite athletes undergoing surgery for distal syndesmotic injuries, with 75% having acute and 25% chronic injuries. Cartilage lesions were prevalent (n=15/16, 94%), mainly at the talar dome (90%), and primarily scored as grade 1 (33%) or grade 2 (67%). Distal tibia cartilage damage occurred in 13% of cases. All patients were diagnosed with an instability of the syndesmosis confirmed through needle arthroscopy and were treated with a suture button (one or two buttons) fixation. Conclusion In 15/16 elite athletes with syndesmotic injuries, concomitant ankle cartilage lesions were identified through needle arthroscopy. In addition, most of the lesions were classified as grade 1 or 2, denoting superficial damage. Needle arthroscopic interventions proved feasible and safe for confirming syndesmotic instability and addressing intra-articular pathologies.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere001879
JournalBMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2024


  • Ankle
  • Arthroscopy
  • Athlete
  • Cartilage
  • Sporting injuries

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