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Broken Ankle Overview
A broken ankle or broken foot is a common injury. You may experience a broken ankle or broken foot during a car crash or from a simple misstep or fall. The seriousness of a broken ankle or broken foot varies. Fractures can range from tiny cracks in your bones to breaks that pierce your skin.
Treatment for a broken ankle or broken foot depends on the exact site and severity of the fracture. A severely broken ankle or broken foot may require surgery to implant plates, rods or screws into the broken bone to maintain proper position during healing.
Broken Ankle Causes
When a person stresses the ankle joint beyond the strength of its elements, the joint becomes injured.
- If only the ligaments give way and tear, the damage is a sprained ankle.
- If the ligaments that stabilize the joint are completely disrupted, the bones can come apart and the ankle can become dislocated.
- If a bone gives way and breaks, the damage is an ankle fracture.
- Fractures can occur with simultaneous tears of the ligaments. This can happen in several ways:
- Rolling the ankle in or out
- Twisting the ankle side to side
- Extreme flexing or extending of the joint
- Severe force applied to the joint by coming straight down on it as in jumping from a high level
Broken Ankle Symptoms
If you have a broken ankle or broken foot, you may experience some of the following signs and symptoms:
- Immediate, throbbing pain
- Pain that increases with activity and decreases with rest
- Difficulty in walking or bearing weight
- Problems getting a shoe on or off
Some people feel or hear a snap at the time of injury and assume that means something has broken. However, a snapping sound or feeling is not always a sign of a fracture.
Types of Ankle Fractures
The type of ankle fracture classification depends upon the location of the fracture and which bones of the ankle are fractured. There can be one bone injured, or multiple bones injured. The type and severity of the fracture will determine the treatment by the orthopedic surgeon; a classification list is as follows:
Lateral Malleolus Fracture
- The lateral malleolus is the bump on the outer part of the ankle and is made up of the fibula bone.
Medial Malleolus Fracture
The medial malleolus is the bump on the inside of the ankle and is made up of the tibia bone.
Posterior Malleolus Fracture
- The posterior malleolus is the bony prominence of the tibia, and is rarely injured on its own.
- “Bi” means two, so two bones of the ankle are fractured with a bimalleolar fracture.
- Most commonly the lateral malleolus and the medial malleolus are the bones that are fractured.
- Bimalleolar fractures often make the ankle joint unstable.
- “Tri” means three so in a trimalleolar fracture, all three malleoli (medial, lateral, and posterior) bones of the ankle are broken.
- These are unstable injuries often caused by a large amount of force, disruption of the ligaments, or a dislocation.
- Also called “high ankle sprains.”
- Usually a result of ankle eversion (outward twisting of the ankle joint).
- May or may not be associated with an actual fracture of the bones of the ankle, but is often treated as a fracture.
- May involve fracture of the fibula (outer bone in the lower leg) higher up in the calf near the knee (proximal) in severe ankle sprains, also called a Maisonneuve fracture.
There are other names for ankle injuries; however, most will fit into the general types listed above.