Peroneal tendon injury

Back to Patient education: foot & ankle

What is a peroneal tendon injury?

A peroneal tendon injury is a painful tear or recurrent subluxation (dislocation) of the peroneal tendons, which attach the muscles on the outside of your calf to your foot bone. The peroneals are prone to injury as the ankle turns or rolls.

How does a peroneal tendon injury occur?

Peroneal tendon injuries may occur suddenly or develop over time. Athletes in sports that involve repetitive ankle motion are at risk. So are people with high arches. A strong force or chronic irritation can tear your peroneal tendons. In addition, the tendons can pop out of the supporting ligaments that hold them in place.

What are the symptoms of a peroneal tendon injury?

Acute injuries usually cause pain, swelling and weakness or instability in the foot and ankle. Degenerative tears cause sporadic pain on the outside of the ankle, weakness or instability in the ankle, and an increase in the height of the arch. Dislocation produces a snapping feeling around the ankle bone, sporadic pain behind the ankle bone, and ankle instability or weakness.

What is the treatment?

Peroneal tendon tears or recurrent dislocation are challenging to manage without surgical intervention. Immobilization, braces, physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications may temporarily relieve symptoms, but they routinely recur when the patient returns to pre-injury activity levels. In these cases, surgery is almost always necessary.

Surgical options include:

Recovery usually involves several weeks of immobilization, followed by therapy to restore strength and range of motion. Total recovery time is typically six to 12 weeks, depending on the extent of surgery. As with all surgical procedures, recovery varies by patient and demand.