Ankle Fracture

An ankle fracture is a break in a bone in the ankle. The ankle is a complicated joint, made up of the end of the tibia and fibula (the two main bones in the lower leg) and the talus. The tibia and fibula glide over the talus when you move your ankle. How does an ankle fracture occur? A break in an ankle bone usually occurs from an extreme twisting or rotation beyond the normal range of motion. Ankle fractures are commonly associated with falls or from active sports such as soccer and basketball.

What are the signs and symptoms of an ankle fracture?
Most ankle fractures are painful immediately and will swell and bruise considerably. Walking is usually difficult following an ankle fracture due to the amount of pressure on the bones from body weight. Depending on the severity of the fracture, there may be deformity of the ankle joint.

How is an ankle fracture diagnosed?
Your doctor can detect an ankle fracture by physical examination and understanding the history of the injury. X-rays will be needed to look for broken bones. Because the ankle is a complex joint, several x-ray views may need to be taken.

How is an ankle fracture treated?
Rest, ice, and elevation are recommended to help reduce pain and inflammation.

  • Rest - All activities that require active use of the ankle should be restricted. Talk with your doctor about a plan for gradually returning to full activity.
  • Ice - Ice packs may be used every about 30 minutes at a time to help alleviate pain.
  • Wrapping - Your doctor may recommend that you use a soft elastic wrap or bandage at the ankle to help reduce swelling and pressure at the area of injury.
  • Elevation - Elevating the ankle may help reduce swelling and ease pain and inflammation.
  • Medication - Your doctor may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory pain medication.
  • Casting - Most ankle fractures require a cast that your doctor will apply for you. Casts immobilize the joint and help assure proper, efficient healing.
  • Crutches - The use of crutches takes the pressure off the injured ankle joint and will help reduce pain and increase mobility.
  • Your doctor or physical therapist may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to help in your recovery.

If the ankle fracture is severe, your doctor may recommend surgery to "pin" broken bones into the best position for healing. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment options for your condition.

When can I expect to recover from an ankle fracture?
Recovery time after an ankle fracture varies widely, depending on the severity of the fracture. Fractures that require casting may take six weeks to three months to heal, while fractures that require surgical intervention take significantly longer. How can I prevent an ankle fracture? Most ankle fractures can be prevented by close attention to proper conditioning and stretching, wearing supportive tape or wraps, and wearing shoes that offer good stability and cushioning.