A broken ankle is one of the worst injuries you can get on your ankle joint. A fracture in the ankle can involve the distal ends of the tibia and/or fibula, the talus, or the calcaneus. It can also involve some combination of injuries to several of these bones, and in severe cases, the joint can also become unstable or dislocated. Ligaments can also become damaged, further destabilising the joint. The severity of your broken ankle will depend on the force of the trauma that caused it and the amount of structures that get injured.
Broken ankles are usually caused by severe trauma. You can break you ankle in several ways, such as twisting it –usually inwards-, landing on it after a high jump, or through blunt trauma such as falling, or suffering from an impact during a traumatic event such as a car or motorcycle accident.
The symptoms of a broken ankle will vary in severity depending on how bad the fracture is. A simple fracture in one bone might only cause light pain, while a severe fracture that affects several bones and ligaments will send you straight to the emergency room.
The most common symptoms of a broken ankle include:
- Pain, which will vary depending on the severity of the fracture.
- Swelling and/or bruising, which can indicate soft tissue damage.
- Deformity of the joint.
- Inability to put weight on the ankle.
- In open fractures, bone tissue will be visible.
In most cases, it is virtually impossible to differentiate a broken ankle from a sprained ankle or dislocation. In order to be able to make an accurate diagnosis, your doctor will most likely order an X-ray.
The treatment plan for your broken ankle will also depend on the severity of the injury and the stability of the joint. Simple ankle fractures will require a short leg cast or walking boot to immobilise the ankle for several days or weeks. Your doctor will order you to rest for a period of time, during which you shouldn’t place any weight on the injured joint. Ice, elevation, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can also be helpful.
If your broken ankle is more severe, having caused injuries to multiple structures or making the joint unstable, a surgical procedure might be necessary; usually an open reduction and internal fixation. Most types of ankle surgery include the implantation of permanent metal hardware to make sure the bones stay in the proper position while they heal. A joint that heals incorrectly is more likely to develop arthritis in the future, which is why it’s so important to ensure the correct alignment of the bones as soon as possible after an injury. If you have suspect a sprained ankle then you need to get sprained ankle treatment.