During the past 30 years, doctors have noted an increase in the number and severity of broken ankles, due in part to an active, older population of “baby boomers.” The ankle actually involves two joints, one on top of the other. A broken ankle can involve one or more bones, as well as injuring the surrounding connective tissues (ligaments).
Any one of the three bones that make up the ankle joint could break as the result of a fall, an automobile accident or some other trauma to the ankle.
Because a severe sprain can often mask the symptoms of a broken ankle, every injury to the ankle should be examined by a physician. Symptoms of a broken ankle include:
- Immediate and severe pain.
- Tender to the touch.
- Inability to put any weight on the injured foot.
- Deformity, particularly if there is a dislocation as well as a fracture.
If the fracture is stable and no damage has occurred to the ligament or the mortise joint, it can be treated with a leg cast or brace. Initially, a long leg cast may be applied, which can later be replaced by a short walking cast. It takes at least six weeks for a broken ankle to heal, and it may be several months before you can return to sports at your previous competitive level. Your physician will probably schedule additional X-rays while the bones heal to make sure that changes or pressures on the ankle do not cause the bones to shift. In some cases surgery may be required to “fix” the bones together so they will heal properly.