Broken ankle is an injury that is caused by a sudden impact to the foot or ankle. Injuries that cause a broken ankle are referred to as an ankle fracture. The fracture usually involves the middle of the ankle joint and the bone is broken into 2 or 3 pieces. The ankle joint is a hinge joint as it connects the foot to the leg.
The bones of the ankle joint are called the tibia, fibula, talus and calcaneus. The tibia is the larger of the bones and is located in the lower leg. The tibia has 2 parts, the fibula and talus. The talus is located at the back of the ankle and is also known as the calcaneus. The talus is a bony piece that is the largest of the bones in the ankle. The talus is connected to the tibia by a ligament.
Broken ankle is also known as sprained ankle. A broken ankle can happen due to injury, overuse or even as a result of a sudden, severe impact to the ankle.
Symptoms for a broken ankle
The symptoms of a broken ankle depend on the severity of the break. Broken ankles can be unstable, which means that they are prone to being re-broken.
- Pronation (rolling of the foot towards the inside of the leg)
Broken ankle in infants
The symptoms for an infant with a broken ankle may include:
- An inability to move the foot
- The infant losing the ability to stand on the foot
- Bruise and swelling at the ankle
Broken ankle in toddlers
The symptoms for a toddler with a broken ankle may include:
- Bruising and swelling at the ankle
- Tearing of the skin at the ankle
- Bruising at the base of the big toe
Broken ankle in adults
Broken ankle in adults can cause symptoms such as:
- A pop in the ankle
- Pain and swelling at the ankle
- A deformed foot
Causes of a broken ankle
The most common cause of a broken ankle is an injury to the ankle joint. The ankle is a joint that connects the foot to the leg and the bones of the ankle are called the tibia, fibula, talus and calcaneus. The tibia is the larger of the two bones of the ankle. The tibia has 2 parts, the fibula and talus. The talus is located at the back of the ankle and is also known as the calcaneus. The talus is a bony piece that is the largest of the bones in the ankle. The talus is connected to the tibia by a ligament.
There are three types of ankle fractures, the type of fracture depends on the direction of the break.
- A simple fracture occurs when the bone is broken at a single direction.
- A compound fracture occurs when the bone is broken in 2 or 3 different directions.
- A comminuted fracture occurs when the bone is broken into more that 3 pieces.
Types of injury that can cause a broken ankle
A broken ankle may occur due to a fall, sports injury or a car accident. A fall may cause an ankle fracture when the person lands on the foot with their ankle bent. A sports injury may cause an ankle injury from a fall or collision in sports such as soccer, rugby or football. Car accidents may cause an ankle injury when a person lands on foot with a bent ankle.
Treatment for broken ankle
Depending on the severity of the break, the treatment for a broken ankle may include:
- Immobilization of the ankle by wrapping, splinting and casting
- Stabilization of the ankle by a brace or special shoe
Immobilization by wrapping, splinting or casting is usually done for the first 48 hours. The treatment after the first 48 hours may be a simple cast or a walking boot. Immobilization is usually used until the swelling and bruising subsides and the bone heals.
This immobilization is important to ensure that the ankle is not re-broken. Immobilization helps to keep the ankle stable and prevents movement of the joint.
In some cases, surgery may be required, this will depend on the severity of the break. Surgery may require a surgical cut to the bone to remove the bone fragments. The bone may also be realigned to allow the foot to straighten.
Broken ankle exercises for adults
Broken ankle exercises for adults are usually recommended when the person is discharged from the hospital. The exercises are meant to strengthen the muscles around the ankle. They are usually done on a treadmill or in a gym.
Exercises that are done after a broken ankle include:
- The tibia and fibula are used to rotate the foot.
- The front and back of the foot are used to lift the heel off the ground.
- The ankle is moved in a spiral pattern.
- The heel and toes are used to dorsiflex the foot.
These exercises are meant to help improve the strength of the muscles around the ankle.
Broken ankle exercises for children
Broken ankle exercises for children are usually recommended after the patient has been discharged from the hospital. They are meant to help improve the strength of the muscles around the ankle. It is also important to ensure that the muscles are well developed before the exercises are started.
The exercises include:
- Toe raises
- Ankle rotations
- Single leg toe raises
- Side leg toe raises
- Ankle raises
Broken ankle exercises for teenagers
Broken ankle exercises for teenagers are usually recommended after a broken ankle has healed. This is because it is more difficult to prevent muscle imbalances in teenagers. It is important to ensure that the muscles are well developed before the exercises are started.
The exercises include:
- Side leg toe lifts
- Single leg toe lifts
Broken ankle after surgery
After a broken ankle, a cast or splint will be worn for the first 6 weeks. After this time, the cast or splint may be removed. After surgery, it is important to keep the ankle elevated above the level of the heart. This helps to prevent swelling.
Surgery is usually required to repair a broken ankle. In some cases, bone fragments may need to be removed. The bones may also need to be realigned to allow the foot to straighten.
After surgery, the person will be required to wear a cast for at least 6 weeks. After this time, a walking boot will be worn.
Broken ankle treatment in adults
Treatment for a broken ankle in adults is usually:
- Immobilization of the ankle by wrapping, splinting and casts
- Stabilization of the ankle by braces or special shoes
- Physical therapy
- Walking boot
- In some cases, bone fragments may need to be removed.
What’s the outlook?
The outlook for a broken ankle depends on the type of injury, the severity of the break and the person’s age. A broken ankle is not a common injury but it is important to get treatment as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the ankle.
If the injury is not serious, the person may be able to return to their normal activities after a few weeks. However, the person will need to avoid sports and other activities that cause falls.
It is important to follow the treatment advice provided by the doctor and physical therapist. This is because the prognosis for the ankle is affected by how well treatment is done.
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