What is the deltoid (medial) ankle ligament?
The deltoid or medial ligament is a strong band of connective tissue that helps stabilize your inner ankle. It is one of many ankle ligaments that support this complex joint.
A group of four ligaments (the medial collateral ligaments) makes up the deltoid ligament. Medial refers to the inside of your ankle. Deltoid means triangle-shaped.
What are ligaments?
Ligaments are bands of fibers interconnected in strong, cord-like ropes. Typically, ligaments attach bones to each other in a joint. In places like your elbow, ankle or knee, ligaments make crisscross connections that help keep a joint stable.
In some parts of your body, ligaments don’t connect bones. For example, some ligaments located in your pelvis help support internal organs.
What is the purpose of the deltoid ligament?
The deltoid or medial ligament is an important part of your ankle’s structure. It connects and holds together several bones in your foot and ankle.
This ligament helps prevent you from over-rotating your foot or rolling your ankle inward. It acts as a counterbalance to the lateral ligaments on the outside of your ankle.
Where is the medial ligament located?
The deltoid ligament is the main ligament on the inner ankle. It attaches to bones of your leg, foot and ankle, including:
- Medial malleolus, the bony bump on the inside of your ankle.
- Tibia, or shinbone.
- Navicular, the bone on the top inside of your foot.
- Calcaneus, or heel bone.
- Talus, the bone that sits between your shin and heel.
It consists of two layers of tissue — one deep in your ankle, the other more superficial (closer to the surface). Together they provide strength and stability to your ankle joint.
Conditions and Disorders
What are ankle sprains?
Ankle sprains are a very common injury that can, in rare cases, affect the medial ligament. When you sprain your ankle, ligaments supporting the joint stretch, strain or even tear.
In most cases, people sprain an ankle by rolling it to the outside (supination). This motion damages lateral ligaments on the outside of your ankle. These common sprains can result from simply stepping on an uneven surface or losing your balance.
What causes deltoid ligament sprains?
Deltoid ligament sprains are an uncommon type of ankle sprain. A strain or tear of the deltoid ligament results from rolling your ankle inward (pronation).
The medial ligament is stronger than the lateral ligaments. This strength makes it less likely to strain or tear. Deltoid or medial ligament sprains account for only about 15% of ankle sprains.
Most injuries to the deltoid ligament result from a direct impact to your ankle. An ankle fracture (broken bone) on the outside of your ankle is the most common cause of a deltoid ligament sprain.
Who is most likely to experience a deltoid ligament sprain?
Deltoid ligament sprains occur most frequently in football players, soccer players and gymnasts.
How can I keep my deltoid ligament healthy?
Strengthening the muscles that support your ankle can help prevent deltoid ankle sprains. Exercises that involve balancing on one foot improve stability, making you less likely to twist your ankle.
When playing sports like football or soccer, be sure to wear proper shoes and protective gear to help prevent accidental injury.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I talk to a doctor?
You should call your provider if you experience:
- Pain on the inside of your ankle after rolling it inward.
- Swelling or bruising on the inside of your ankle.
- Difficulty putting weight on your injured foot.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
The medial ligament is a very strong band of tissue that wraps around the inside of your ankle and attaches to bones in your foot. It helps stabilize your ankle and prevent it from rolling inward. You can sprain your deltoid ligament, but it’s a much less common injury than sprains to the outside ankle ligaments.
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