A broken ankle, known as an ankle fracture, is among the most common bone and joint injuries, creating pain, swelling and discoloration anywhere in the ankle area. The degree of these symptoms depends on the severity of the fracture.
A broken ankle can range from a hairline fracture in one bone which may go virtually unnoticed, to multiple fractures which make the ankle very unstable. In addition to the broken bones, soft tissue is usually damaged as well, most commonly the ligaments which hold the ankle bones in position.
Anatomy of the Ankle
The ankle is comprised of three bones: the tibia (shinbone), fibula (smaller bone in lower leg), and talus (a small bone between the heel bone and the tibia and fibula). The parts of these bones that make up the ankle are the inside part of the tibia (medial malleolus), back part of the tibia (posterior malleolus) and the end of the fibula (lateral malleolus).
There are also two joints which make up the ankle: the true ankle joint where the tibia, fibula, and talus meet; and the Syndesmosis joint between the tibia and fibula, held together by three groups of ligaments. Encasing the joint is the joint capsule, which contains fluid allowing for smooth movement of the joint surfaces.
An ankle fracture is most often caused by a sudden, forceful twisting or rotating of your ankle; rolling your ankle; tripping or falling; or trauma, such as that from a car accident, or if you come down hard on your foot as when jumping from a high level.
Symptoms of a broken (fractured) ankle
** A broken ankle can easily be mistaken for a sprained ankle. Any ankle injury should be examined by a podiatric surgeon.
- Immediate and severe ankle pain (not necessarily in the exact location of the injury)
- Swelling in the ankle
- Bruising which may take some time to develop
- Area is tender to touch
- Inability to bear weight on foot
- Ankle may appear to be out of place if dislocated
- Ankle may be numb or partially numb
- Inability to move your toes
- Cold or blue foot
Treatment for a broken (fractured) ankle may include
Your podiatrist at PA Foot and Ankle Associates may recommend one or more of the following to manage your fracture:
- Splinting if ankle is extremely swollen
- Realignment of ankle bones if necessary
- Surgery if a bone has broken through skin
- Ankle Immobilization with a cast (type of cast depends on severity of fracture)
- Prescription or over the counter pain medication
- Physical therapy after ankle heals to increase muscle strength
A podiatric surgeon, like those at PA Foot and Ankle Associates, are intensively trained in the complex architecture of the foot and ankle, and are the most qualified type of physician to diagnose and treat a broken ankle.