Fracture

There are two types of foot fractures: stress fractures and general bone fractures. The biggest difference between the two is how the bone was fractured, and the severity of the fracture. Additionally, an “open fracture” is a classification in which the fracture breaks the skin.

Fractures in the ankle can range from avulsion injuries (small pieces of bone that have been pulled off) to severe shattering breaks of the tibia, fibula, or both. A person may still be able to walk or put weight on their foot with a fractured ankle, but it could cause further damage to the bone.

Foot and ankle fractures can involve one or more bones, as well as injury to the surrounding ligaments, due to the sheer amount of bones located in the lower extremities. There are a wide variety for the causes, but generally speaking the leading cause is trauma-related injury.

Due to the similar symptoms between the two, ankle fractures are often mistaken for ankle sprains, however, these two diagnoses are very different, and require separate courses of action. Due to the common misconceptions of fractures and sprains, all ankle injuries should be examined by a physician.

Symptoms

  • Pain at the site of the fracture. In extreme cases, the pain can extend from the foot upwards towards the knee.
  • Significant swelling.
  • Blisters over the fracture site. These should be promptly treated before an infection arises.
  • Bruising that develops shortly after the injury.
  • Inability to bear weight (being able to walk on a fracture is possible; walking is not an accurate test of whether or not a bone has been fractured)
  • Change in the appearance of the ankle.
  • Bone protruding through the skin (SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION to avoid severe infection and prolonged recovery).

Treatment Options

Nonsurgical:

Treatment of ankle fractures depends upon the type and severity of the injury. Your podiatrist will initially instruct you to follow the R.I.C.E. protocol:

  • Rest: Stay off the injured ankle.
  • Ice: Apply an ice pack to the injured area, using a thin towel as a barrier between the ice and skin. Apply ice for 20 minutes, then wait 40 minutes before repeating the process.
  • Compression: An elastic wrap should be used to control swelling. Be sure to not wrap the area too tight, to allow for adequate circulation to the injury site.
  • Elevation: The ankle should be raised slightly above heart-level to reduce swelling.

Fractures require immobiliztion to give the bones the time to heal, but the type of immobilization should be determined by your doctor after examining the type of fracture. Additionally, the podiatrist may recommend a leg cast or brace, given that the fracture is stable.

Surgical:

If the ligaments are torn, or if the fracture created a loose fragment of bone that irritates the joint, surgery may be required. Repairing the torn ligament would help to secure the two bones that should be connected by the broken band of fibrous tissue and repair soft tissue damage, if present.
Follow your surgeon’s instructions after treatment. Failure to do so can lead to infection, deformity, arthritis, and chronic pain.