Fractured Ankle


Ankle fractures or broken ankles can significantly disrupt your life. Understanding the nature of ankle fractures, the common causes, signs, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options can help you take necessary measures for quick recovery and further prevention.

Fractured ankle: typically treated with immobilization and rehabilitation for recovery.
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Causes of a Fractured Ankle

A fractured ankle occurs when one or more bones making up the ankle joint break. Various situations can cause such injuries:

  • Slip and Fall: An accidental slip and fall can put intense pressure on your ankle, causing a fracture.
  • Sports Injuries: High-intensity sports like football or basketball, involving a lot of jumping, running, and sudden directional changes, can lead to ankle injuries.
  • Car Accidents: The impact and force during a car crash can cause serious ankle fractures.
  • Misstep: Walking or stepping awkwardly on an uneven surface can twist the ankle, resulting in a fracture.

Symptoms and Treatment for a Fractured Ankle

Recognizing the symptoms is the first step towards diagnosing and treating a fractured ankle. Here are some common symptoms:

  • Pain: The immediate and intense pain in the ankle area is usually the first sign of a fracture.
  • Swelling: The affected area may swell up and appear bruised.
  • Inability to Walk: Difficulty in bearing weight or walking suggests a possible fracture.

Treatment for an ankle fracture depends on the severity and type of fracture:

  • Rest and Immobilization: Rest is essential for healing minor fractures. Keeping the ankle immobilized using a cast or walking boot aids recovery.
  • Physical Therapy: For maintaining mobility and strength in the ankle, physical therapy is often recommended post-rest.
  • Surgery: Serious fractures may require surgery to realign and stabilize the bones.

How to Recognize a Fractured Ankle

Fractured Ankle: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
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Identifying a fractured ankle early can expedite treatment and recovery. Here’s what to look for:

  • Deformity: The ankle may appear deformed or out of place if the fracture is severe.
  • Sound at Injury: An audible snap or grinding sound at the time of injury can indicate a fracture.
  • Visible Bone or Wound: In open fractures, the broken bone might protrude through the skin.

Recovering from a Fractured Ankle

Recovery from a fractured ankle involves both medical treatment and self-care. Here’s what the recovery process looks like:

  • Rest: Give your ankle ample rest. Avoid putting weight on the affected ankle.
  • Physical Therapy: Engage in prescribed physical therapy exercises to restore mobility and strength.
  • Healthy Diet: Consuming a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D aids bone healing.

The Risks of Not Treating a Fractured Ankle

Ignoring a fractured ankle can lead to serious complications:

  • Chronic Pain: Untreated fractures may cause persistent, chronic pain.
  • Arthritis: Delayed treatment can increase the risk of developing arthritis in the affected ankle.
  • Deformity: An untreated fracture may result in an abnormal alignment of the ankle bones, causing a deformity.

How to Avoid a Fractured Ankle

Preventing ankle fractures involves taking some precautions:

  • Use Protective Gear: While playing sports or performing high-intensity activities, always use appropriate protective gear.
  • Strength Training: Regular strength training can enhance muscle strength, thereby providing better support to your ankle.
  • Proper Footwear: Always wear footwear that provides good ankle support, especially on uneven surfaces.

Common Causes of a Fractured Ankle

Common Causes of a Fractured Ankle
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An ankle fracture can result from different scenarios:

  • Twisting or Rolling the Ankle: This is common during sports activities or walking on an uneven surface.
  • Impact from a Fall or Jump: Landing awkwardly after a jump or fall can cause an ankle fracture.
  • Direct Blow to the Ankle: A direct blow to the ankle during an accident can result in a fracture.

The Different Types of Fractured Ankles

Fractured ankles are classified based on the area of the ankle affected:

  • Lateral Malleolus Fracture: Involves a fracture on the outer side of the ankle.
  • Medial Malleolus Fracture: This is a fracture on the inside of the ankle.
  • Posterior Malleolus Fracture: Occurs at the back of the ankle.

Diagnosing a Fractured Ankle

Diagnosis of an ankle fracture typically involves the following steps:

  • Physical Examination: The doctor examines the ankle, looking for signs of swelling, deformity, and tenderness.
  • Imaging Tests: X-rays or CT scans provide detailed images of the ankle, helping identify the location and severity of the fracture.
  • Stress Tests or Ankle Arthroscopy: In some cases, these tests may be performed to evaluate the ankle’s stability.

The Benefits of Physical Therapy for a Fractured Ankle

Physical therapy plays a key role in the recovery from a fractured ankle:

  • Regains Mobility: Physical therapy helps regain lost mobility post-fracture.
  • Strengthens Muscles: Through specific exercises, it aids in strengthening the muscles surrounding the ankle, providing better support.
  • Prevents Future Injuries: Regular therapy can help avoid future ankle injuries by enhancing balance and coordination.

How to Manage Pain from a Fractured Ankle

How to Manage Pain from a Fractured Ankle
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Managing pain is an essential part of treatment for a fractured ankle:

  • Pain Medication: Over-the-counter or prescribed medication helps manage pain.
  • Rest: Resting the affected ankle reduces stress and alleviates pain.
  • Ice Application: Applying ice packs at regular intervals can help in pain reduction and control swelling.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Ankle Fractures

Can you walk if you fracture your ankle?

Walking with an ankle fracture can be extremely painful and could cause further damage. It’s important to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect a fracture. Until then, avoid putting weight on the affected ankle.

How long does it take for a fractured ankle to heal?

The healing time for a fractured ankle depends on the severity and type of fracture. While minor fractures may heal in 6 weeks, serious fractures requiring surgery can take 12 weeks or longer to heal.

What are some signs of a fractured ankle?

Signs of a fractured ankle can include severe pain, swelling, bruising, difficulty in walking or bearing weight on the affected foot, and in severe cases, visible deformity of the ankle.

How do you treat a fractured ankle?

Treatment of a fractured ankle varies based on the fracture’s severity. It can range from rest, immobilization using a cast or boot and pain management to surgical intervention in more serious cases. Physical therapy is often recommended post-rest or surgery for regaining strength and mobility.

What are the risks of not properly treating a fractured ankle?

Ignoring a fractured ankle can lead to chronic pain, increased risk of arthritis in the ankle, and possible deformity due to abnormal healing and alignment of the ankle bones.

Are some people more prone to ankle fractures?

Yes, individuals involved in high-risk sports, older people with weaker bones, and those with previous ankle injuries or conditions that affect bone strength are more susceptible to ankle fractures.

Can physiotherapy aid in the recovery of a fractured ankle?

Yes, physical therapy plays a crucial role in the recovery process. It helps restore strength and mobility, reduce pain and swelling, and prevent future injuries by enhancing balance and coordination.

Is surgery always necessary for an ankle fracture?

Not all ankle fractures require surgery. Non-displaced fractures where the bones are still aligned can often be treated with immobilization and physical therapy. However, severe fractures where bones are out of place, or certain types of fractures such as a trimalleolar fracture, often require surgical intervention.