An ankle fracture is a break of a bone in the ankle joint. The joint is made up of 3 bones:
The ankle joint is supported by 3 groups of ligaments. An injury that causes a fracture may also damage one or more of these ligaments.
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An ankle fracture can occur when the joint is forced beyond its normal range of motion. It can also be caused by a direct blow to the bone itself. Any form of ankle trauma may cause injury, including:
Factors that increase your chances of getting an ankle fracture include:
You will be asked about your symptoms, physical activity, and how the injury occurred. An examination of the injured area will be done.
Treatment will depend on the severity of the injury. Treatment includes:
Devices that may be used to hold the bone in place while it heals include:
Your doctor may prescribe pain medication. More x-rays will be ordered while the bone heals to ensure that the bones have not shifted position.
When your doctor decides you are ready, start range-of-motion and strengthening exercises. You may be referred to a physical therapist to help you with these exercises. Do not return to sports activity until your doctor says your ankle is fully healed. You will need near-normal motion and muscle strength.
It takes at least 6-8 weeks for even a simple ankle fracture to heal. It will be several months before you can return to intense physical activity.
To help prevent ankle fractures:
American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
British Columbia Podiatric Medical Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Ankle fracture. American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society website. Available at: http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/conditions/ailments-of-the-ankle/Pages/Ankle-Fracture.aspx. Accessed August 20, 2014.
Ankle fractures (broken ankle). Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00391. Updated March 2013. Accessed August 20, 2014.
Chaudhry S, Egol KA. Ankle injuries and fractures in the obese patient. Orthop Clin North Am. 2011;42(1):45-53.
Scott AM. Diagnosis and treatment of ankle fractures. Radiol Technol. 2010;81(5):457-475.
9/10/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T903791/Ankle-fracture-emergency-management: Mosher TJ, Kransdorf MJ, et al. ACR Appropriateness Criteria acute trauma to the ankle online publication]. Reston (VA): American College of Radiology (ACR);2014. 10 p. Available at: http://www.guideline.gov/content.aspx?id=48284#Section420. Accessed September 10, 2014.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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