Many people associate ankle fractures with sports, but you don't have to be an athlete to develop a serious ankle injury. Ankle fractures, in which there is a partial or complete break in a bone, can happen to anyone. People can break an ankle after a fall, car accident or twisting injury.
Some fractures are small cracks in one or more bones in your ankle. Other fractures involve shattered bones. You may experience pain, swelling and bruising, and your ankle may still be broken even if you can walk on it. People may be first seen in the E.R. or their doctor's office, but it's important to be evaluated by an orthopaedic foot and ankle specialist to determine what kind of treatment you need.
"An X-ray will show what the fracture looks like, which bones are broken, and how separated the bones are," says David Levine, MD, an orthopaedic foot and ankle specialist in New York. "An X-ray will also help determine the best treatment."
There are several treatments for ankle fractures. The need for ankle fracture surgery depends on how your ankle joint looks on an X-ray and the specific type of fracture. Restoring the alignment of broken bones is important, says Levine. Ankle arthritis can occur if a fracture doesn't properly heal.
"The main goal of surgery is to help the ankle joint heal with a normal shape," Levine says. "Once the ankle is put back together, the next step is to regain normal movement. After the bones have fully healed, you may need physical therapy to restore strength, balance and conditioning."
American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society