Ankle Fracture

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 and consists of three bones: tibia, fibula and talus. These bones are supported by strong ligaments.

Ankle fractures result when the ankle is forced beyond its normal range of motion. This can occur when a jumping or running athlete lands on an uneven surface or when the foot is firmly planted and the body gets twisted. Equipment and surface conditions may also play a role.

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. 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.

Nonoperative: 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.

Operative: 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 to ensure proper healing. This may take 4-8 weeks depending on the severity of the fracture.