Medically Reviewed by Jason B. O’Dell, MD
Ankle injuries are some of the most common orthopedic-related issues people experience.
“Although ankle sprain can be easily treated at home with R-I-C-E (rest, ice, compression, elevation), an ankle fracture can easily be mistaken for a sprain,” says Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Specialist Dr. Jason O’Dell, of McLeod Orthopaedics. “If not treated properly, subtle ankle fractures can lead to long-term disabilities.”
Three bones are most at-risk:
A person gets taller and matures, because the ends of the longer bones continue to grow. They are the last bones of a person to harden. An untreated break can hinder the ultimate development of an individual.
CHILDREN & BOOMERS
Moving left and right or landing badly are most likely to end in ankle injury. Basketball moves or landing on someone else’s foot, forcing you to twist your ankle, can lead to the injury.
Fractured ankle is one of the most common childhood injuries. And since the 1990s, the number and severity of broken ankles among older adults has increases. Specialists point to efforts by the “baby boomer” generation to remain active as a primary reason for the increase in their ankle fractures.
ANKLE FRACTURE SYMPTOMS
Part of the difficulty in diagnosing a broken ankle vs. a sprain is that the symptoms can be similar:
X-rays or CT Scans may be required by the Orthopedic Specialist to determine if it’s a fracture, the bones affected and the severity of the injury.
If the broken bones are not out of place (called a “stable” fracture), surgery may not be needed. Sometimes a tightly laced high-top shoe or short cast can hold the bones in place while they heal.
If the bones are out of place, your Orthopedic Specialist may recommend surgery to reposition the bones. Screws, metal rods or plates can be used to hold the bones in place.
The most severe injury involves all three bones of the ankle, called a trimalleolar ankle fracture. Surgical treatment is needed unless a person has significant other health problems that prevent surgery.
Be sure to listen to your Orthopedic Specialist and don’t put weight on your ankle until they approve. After gaining a “thumbs-up” on weight bearing, you may need physical rehabilitation and strengthening exercises to regain an active life.
Ankle sprains can be painful. Yet, they are easily treated at home. Be careful not to mistakenly think it’s only a sprain when it is a more serious fracture, which – if not treated – could limit your mobility.
Find an Orthopedic Specialist near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, National Institutes of Health, American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Foundation, American Academy of Family Physicians