Key Points about Ankle Fractures

  • Ankle fractures are caused by forcefully rotating, twisting or rolling your ankle. Many people experience ankle fractures from automobile accidents or high-impact sports.
  • Complications are rare from an ankle fracture but could develop. Complications include arthritis, bone infection, Compartment syndrome, or damage to nerves or blood vessels.
  • Symptoms associated with a broken ankle include swelling, bruising, tenderness, inability to walk, or a deformity.
  • Your doctor can diagnose an ankle fracture with a physical exam and diagnostic testing such as an X-ray, CT scan, MRI, or bone scan.
  • Your doctor will develop a treatment plan depending on the location and severity of the fracture. Treatment may involve medications, physical therapy, immobilization, or surgery.

Overview

An ankle fracture, also known as a broken ankle, is an injury to the ankle one, while many fractures are tiny cracks in the ankle bone. Some experience severe breaks that pierce the skin.

People who are in car accidents, forcefully fall, or twist the ankle in a sporting event, may experience an ankle fracture.

Ankle fracture causes

You could sustain an ankle fracture by sudden twisting or rotating your ankle, rolling your ankle, falling, or from impact during an automobile accident.

Many athletes who play high-impact sports such as football, gymnastics, cheerleading, or soccer suffer ankle injuries.

Ankle fracture complications

Older adults, smokers, and diabetic patients are more likely to experience complications after surgery because it takes their bones longer to heal.

Other potential complications include:

  • Arthritis may develop later in life.
  • Infection in the bone from an open fracture.
  • Compartment syndrome that causes swelling, pain, and ankle pain.
  • Damage to nerves or blood vessels.

Ankle fracture symptoms

Symptoms of a broken ankle include:

  • Swelling.
  • Bruising.
  • Tenderness in the affected area.
  • Inability to walk or bear weight on the foot/ankle.
  • Foot or ankle deformity.

Ankle fracture risk factors

Several risk factors make you more susceptible to suffering an ankle fracture, including:

  • Participating in sports such as football, gymnastics, soccer, or basketball.
  • Using improper sports techniques.
  • Working in occupations such as a construction site.
  • Having conditions such as osteoporosis, which can slowly wear down your joints and bones.
  • Increasing your activity level at a rapid pace.

Ankle fracture prevention

How to prevent ankle fractures:

  • Gradually ramp up any exercise program.
  • Cross-train.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Wear appropriate footwear and replace athletic shoes often.
  • Strengthen the ankles.

Ankle fracture diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose an ankle fracture. During a clinic visit, your doctor will take a full medical history, evaluate your symptoms, perform a physical exam, and order diagnostic testing.

Imaging tests your doctor may order include:

  • X-ray — An X-ray will reveal if your bone is broken, if the bone has been displaced and if there are several broken bones.
  • Stress test — A stress test will reveal if you need surgery.
  • CT scan — If the fracture extends into the ankle joint, a CT scan may be appropriate.
  • MRI scan — An MRI scan provides detailed images of bones and soft tissues.

Ankle fracture treatment

While some ankle fractures can be treated with nonsurgical therapies, many people will need surgery to ensure proper healing.

If your broken ankle bone is not out of place or mildly out of place, you may not need surgery.

Nonsurgical treatments for a broken ankle include:

  • Avoid putting pressure on the affected ankle for up to six weeks.
  • Medications, such as over-the-counter pain relievers.
  • Leg cast to stabilize the break.
  • Physical therapy. A trained physical therapist can teach you strengthening and stretching exercises to help you prevent future injuries.

Patients who do not have surgery right away will need to schedule regular follow-up visits to determine if the break is healing or worsening.

More advanced treatments for a broken ankle include:

  • If the ends of the fracture are not aligned, your doctor may perform a reduction. During a reduction, your doctor will move the bones back into the proper positions.
  • During surgery to repair a broken ankle, your doctor may use pins, plates, or screws to hold the bones in the proper position while they heal.
  • Your doctor may immobilize the broken bone in a cast to allow it to heal.

When to Seek Care

If you have a visible ankle deformity, visit your doctor right away.

Schedule an appointment with your doctor if your pain and swelling are worsening or if you are having trouble walking due to the injury.

Next Steps

Follow your doctor’s treatment instructions carefully. If your symptoms are worsening or become severe, call your doctor right away to determine the next steps.

Once you have properly healed, follow preventive measures such as gradually ramp up your exercise program, eat a healthy diet, wear appropriate footwear, and strengthen your ankles before participating in sports.