An ankle fracture is a break in the ankle joint. The joint is made up of three bones:
The ankle joint is supported by three groups of ligaments. An injury that causes a fracture may also damage one or more of these ligaments.
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:
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease, condition, or injury. Risk factors include:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, physical activity, and how the injury occurred. An examination of the injured area will be done.
Tests may include x-rays. They use radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body, especially bones.
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. He or she will order more x-rays 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 Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society
British Columbia Podiatric Medical Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Ankle fractures. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00391. Updated September 2007. Accessed November 5, 2012.
Broken Ankle. American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society website. Available at: http://www.aofas.o.... Accessed November 5, 2012.
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.
Last reviewed November 2012 by John C. Keel, MD
Last Updated: 11/5/2012