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What Is a Fractured Ankle?

A broken or fractured ankle is an injury to the bone. For example, you may experience a broken ankle from a twisting injury from a simple misstep or fall or from direct trauma during a car crash.

An ankle joint is structured with three bones – the tibia, which forms the medial and posterior malleolus; the fibula forms the lateral malleolus and talus. A fracture is characterized based on the bone that has been affected. 

There are various types of ankle fractures. The fractures which involve only one bone can be medial or lateral malleolus fractures. The fractures that involve two or three malleoli are called bimalleolarand trimalleolar fractures respectively. Apart from the broken bones, ankle fractures may be associated with injury to a ligament called syndesmosis, which binds the lower end of the tibia and fibula together.

Symptoms

If you have a broken ankle, you may experience some of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Sudden throbbing pain at the ankle.
  • Swelling. 
  • Visible dislocation in the foot.
  • Bruising. 
  • Tenderness.
  • Deformity.
  • Difficulty in walking.
  • Dizziness.
  • Bleeding (if the bone pierces the skin).
  • Difficulty in lifting your own weight.

Causes

The most common causes of a broken ankle include:

  • Car Accidents: The crushing injuries common in car accidents may cause breaks that require surgical repair.
  • Falls: Tripping and falling can break bones in your ankles, as can landing on your feet after jumping down from just a slight height.
  • Missteps: Sometimes, just putting your foot down wrong can result in a twisting injury that can cause a broken bone.

What Is an Ankle Fracture Treatment?

Fulshear Foot and Ankle will assess your injury before providing ankle fracture treatment. They will physically evaluate the mobility of your foot by moving it in different positions. 

Your doctor will order a few imaging tests to precisely diagnose the condition. The following tests are required in case of a fractured ankle:

  • X-rays: An X-ray is the most effective imaging tool to visualize a broken ankle. Most diagnoses are concluded with the help of an X-ray. 
  • MRI scan: Sometimes, when the crack is too small, it can be missed on X-rays. In such cases, your doctor may advise an MRI scan for diagnosis. 
  • CT Scan: For complex fractures, which might require surgery, the doctor may advise further investigation by CT Scan to assess the fracture in greater detail.

Ankle fracture treatment depends upon the location of the fracture and the severity of symptoms. Conservative treatment is offered in mild cases. If your ankle is stable, your hairline ankle fracture can recover by non-surgical means. While treating the ankle fracture non-operatively, immobilization in a rigid cast or boot for 6-8 weeks. 

Risk Factors

You may be at higher risk of a broken ankle if you:

  • Participate in high-impact sports: The stresses, direct blows, and twisting injuries that occur in sports such as basketball, football, gymnastics, tennis, and soccer can cause ankle fractures.
  • Use improper technique or sports equipment: Faulty equipment, such as shoes that are too worn or not correctly fitted, can contribute to stress fractures and falls. Improper training techniques, such as not warming up and stretching, can also cause ankle injuries.
  • Suddenly increasing your activity level: Whether you are a trained athlete or someone just starting exercising, suddenly boosting the frequency or duration of your exercise sessions can increase your risk of a stress fracture.
  • Keep your home cluttered or poorly lit: Walking around in a house with too much clutter or too little light may lead to falls and ankle injuries.
  • Have certain conditions: Having decreased bone density (osteoporosis) can put you at risk of injuries to your ankle bones.
  • Smoking: Cigarette smoking can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. Studies also show that healing after a fracture may take longer in people who smoke.

Complications

Complications of a broken ankle are uncommon but may include:

  • Arthritis: Fractures that extend into the joint can cause arthritis years later. If your ankle starts to hurt long after a break, see your doctor for an evaluation.
  • Bone infection (osteomyelitis). If you have an open fracture, meaning one end of the bone protrudes through the skin, your bone may be exposed to bacteria that cause infection.
  • Compartment syndrome: This condition can rarely occur with ankle fractures. It causes pain, swelling, and sometimes disability in the affected muscles of the legs.
  • Nerve or blood vessel damage: Trauma to the ankle can injure nerves and blood vessels, sometimes actually tearing them. Seek immediate attention if you notice any numbness or circulation problems. Lack of blood flow can cause a bone to die and collapse.

Prevention

These essential sports and safety tips may help prevent a broken ankle:

  • Wear proper shoes: Use hiking shoes on rough terrain. Choose appropriate athletic shoes for your sport.
  • Replace athletic shoes regularly: Discard sneakers as soon as the tread or heel wears out or if the shoes are wearing unevenly. If you are a runner, replace your sneakers every 300 to 400 miles.
  • Start slowly: That applies to a new fitness program and each workout.
  • Cross-train: Alternating activities can prevent stress fractures. Rotate running with swimming or biking.
  • Build bone strength: Get enough calcium, and vitamin D. Calcium-rich foods include milk, yogurt, and cheese. Ask your doctor if you need to take vitamin D supplements.
  • Declutter your house: Keeping clutter off the floor can help you avoid trips and falls.
  • Strengthen your ankle muscles: If you are prone to twisting your ankle, ask your doctor for exercises to help strengthen the supporting muscles of your ankle.

If you’re experiencing any of the signs of an ankle fracture, it’s time to come in and see one of our podiatrists for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Contact us today at Fulshear Foot and Ankle.

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