A broken ankle is also known as an ankle fracture. This means that one or more of the bones that make up the ankle joint are broken. Twisting or rotating the ankle, rolling the ankle, tripping or falling, or direct trauma, as in a car accident, can cause these fractures.
A fractured ankle can range from a simple break in one bone, which may not stop you from walking, to several fractures, which forces your ankle out of place and may require surgery and that you not put weight on it for a few months.
Simply put, the more bones that are broken, the more unstable the ankle becomes. There may be ligaments damaged as well. The ligaments of the ankle hold the ankle bones and joint in position.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, doctors have noticed an increase in the number and severity of broken ankles since the 1970s, due, in part, to the Baby Boomer generation being active throughout every stage of their lives.
There are a wide variety of causes for broken ankles, most commonly a fall, an automobile accident, or sports-related trauma. Because a severe sprain can often mask the symptoms of a broken ankle, every ankle injury should be examined by a physician.
Symptoms of a broken ankle include:
- Immediate and severe pain.
- Inability to put any weight on the injured foot.
- Tenderness to the touch.
- Deformity, particularly if there is a dislocation or a fracture.
The treatment for a broken ankle usually involves a leg cast or brace if the fracture is stable. If the ligaments are also torn, or if the fracture created a loose fragment of bone that could irritate the joint, surgery may be required to secure the bones in place so they will heal properly.