Types of ankle fractures and how can a podiatrist help?
Fractured ankles can be serious injuries and therefore require medical treatment. Failure to treat them properly can result in poor healing and a range of long-term complications including lack of mobility, chronic pain and arthritis. We are highly experienced in treating broken ankles, so you know that you’re in good hands with us. We can help treat your initial injury and provide assistance when it comes to rehabilitation.
Read on to learn more about fractured ankles, the types of fractures and why it’s important to visit a podiatrist as part of your recovery plan.
The anatomy of the ankle
The ankle joint is made up three bones:
There are specific parts of the tibia and fibula that make up the ankle. These are:
The ankle joint is surrounded by ligaments (fibrous, connective tissue) which connect the bones together and provide stability to the ankle.
What can cause a fractured ankle?
Broken ankles can occur if you:
trip or falling
twist or rotate you ankle, often putting your foot down awkwardly
experience heay impact on your ankle, through sport or physical activity
Signs and symptoms of a fractured ankle?
Sometimes you’ll hear the sound of the bone breaking when you sustain an ankle fracture, but sometimes you won’t. Other symptoms of a fractured ankle include:
types of fractured ankles
Ankle fractures are classified according to the area of the bone that is fractured. The severity depends on the amount of force that caused the fracture. Types of ankle fractures include:
How is a broken ankle diagnosed?
Along with a physical exam such as the Ottawa Ankle Rules, other tests may be used to diagnose a broken ankle. These include:
to determine the location, type and severity of the break
to look for severe ligament, cartilage, or bone injury that doesn’t show up on x-rays.
can be done if there’s a suspected fracture that extends into the ankle joint
How long does it take for a fractured ankle to heal?
Ankle fractures can take anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks to heal. Injuries that don’t require surgery may heal in 6 weeks. Those that need surgery can take up to 12 weeks or longer. It’s usually around 9 – 12 weeks before you can drive, after sustaining an ankle fracture.
Factors such as severity of injury, age and overall general health will all impact healing times.
While most people return to their usual daily activities within 3-4 months (except for sports), research shows that some people can take as long as 2 years to recover fully.
Complications of ankle fractures
If you fracture your ankle it’s very important that you seek medical treatment. If left untreated, some fractures may not heal properly, or may not heal at all and remain broken. Fractures that don’t heal properly can lead to complications such as ankle instability, chronic pain and arthritis.
Treatment for ankle fracture
If you sustain a broken ankle you should seek medical attention immediately, especially if the bone is poking through your skin. Visit the emergencey department as soon as possible or call 000 for help.
Whilst waiting for medical care you can follow these first aid tips:
Fractured ankles often require a multidisciplinary approach. Podiatrists can be part of your care team as we are well-trained in diagnosing and management of broken ankles. Treatment may involve wearing an offloading boots which are designed to keep the bone in place as it heals.
We can also help with the rehabilitation process by advising you on exercises to improve the mobility of the joint and strengthen the muscles surrounding the ankle once the bones have healed. Custom made orthotics can also help offloading and support your ankle as you recover and return to your daily activities.
How to prevent ankle fractures
It’s not always possible to prevent a broken ankle, but doing the following may reduce your risk:
Ankle fractures are serious and require immediate medical attention. If a broken ankle isn’t treated appropriately, it can lead to further damage of your joint, and severely limit your mobility and ability to be active.
frequently asked questions
No when you have fractured your ankle it can be difficult to weight bear and we recommend offloading your ankle.
In some cases, ankle fractures can require surgery.
Yes, you can get a stress fracture in the bones that make up the ankle joint.
Depending on the severity of the fracture and location, fractures can take a while to fully heal. Offloading your ankle and following medical advice is the best way to ensure effective outcomes and prevent delaying healing.
Depending on the type of fracture and what treatment is required, ankle fractures can take from 8 weeks to 12 months to heal.