An ankle fracture is a break of one or more of the bones that make up the ankle.
The ankle is a hinge type joint that connects the leg to the foot. It consists of one large bone (tibia), one small bone (fibula), and one square shaped bone (talus). These bones fit together snugly and are supported by strong ligaments. Ankle fractures result when the ankle is forced inward or outward past its normal range of motion. Fractures result from the same causes as sprains. This can occur when jumping or running and landing on an uneven surface. It may also occur when the foot is firmly planted and the body gets twisted. Equipment and surface conditions may also play a role. Sports most commonly associated with ankle fractures include: Basketball, Football, Baseball and Soccer.
The diagnosis of an ankle fracture is considered when a patient gives a history of “turning” or “rolling” his or her ankle accompanied by sudden pain and swelling. The physical exam will reveal tenderness over the involved bones. Deformity and at times severe swelling of the ankle may be present. X-rays are needed to confirm the fracture and plan for treatment. Occasionally, a CT or MRI is ordered to evaluate the cartilage or tendons around the ankle.
Less severe ankle fractures can be treated by nonoperative means. Typically, a cast or splint is used to stabilize the ankle for several weeks. After the period of immobilization a course of physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the ankle is needed to complete the recovery process.
Surgery is often needed to stabilize ankle fractures. Usually, the surgery involves the placement of screws and plates. The patient then is placed in a cast or splint after surgery for a variable period of time depending on the severity of the fracture. Weight bearing may be delayed until there is evidence of early fracture healing. This may take 4-8 weeks depending on the severity of the fracture.