Broken Ankle (Broken Foot)

What is a Broken Ankle?

A broken ankle (broken foot) is a type of injury to one of the numerous bones in the ankle or foot. This can be a full break in which the bone splits or cracks all the way through forming separate pieces. It could also be what is known as a fracture. Fractures are cracks in the bone that do not go through the full thickness of the bone.

When a person has a broken ankle or broken foot, the severity of the injury can vary a great deal. Some fractures are so thin that they are barely noticeable where others are so severe that they protrude through the skin.

There are many different ways that a foot or ankle can be broken. Car accidents are a common cause of such bone breaks. Sports and athletics can also cause broken bones in the ankle or foot and can be traumatic injuries or occur from repeated stress and use (stress fractures). Overuse of the ankle or foot could also occur from work if a person is on their feet quite a bit. A simple fall or misstep can also lead to a broken foot or ankle.

What are the Symptoms of a Broken Ankle?

Pain and swelling in the foot or ankle are the most common symptoms of a broken ankle or foot. Often, the pain is sudden and sharp when the injury occurs. Other symptoms of a broken ankle or broken foot include bruising, noticeable deformity, trouble walking, and difficulty wearing shoes.

Broken Ankle Causes

A broken ankle is very similar to any other broken bone. The bone breaks because too much pressure is applied. Car accidents are common causes of broken ankles. It’s very easy in a wreck for a foot to get crushed with enough pressure to break the bone. Falls are another common cause of broken ankles. Dropping something heavy on the foot can also cause the injury.

Broken feet are not always caused by simple pressure though. Sometimes simply stepping wrong will apply enough pressure to cause the bones to break. Another possible cause of a broken ankle might be overuse. If the foot is moved exactly the same way over and over again, like when running long distances, it is possible for tiny cracks to form in the bone. Generally it takes a huge amount of repetitive force to cause this but it’s possible for regular amounts of force to cause this in those who have weakened bones due to conditions such as osteoporosis.

How is a Broken Ankle Treated?

If the broken bone in the foot or ankle is not severe, rest and over-the-counter pain killers may be sufficient treatment to allow the bone to heal. On the other hand, when the two pieces of the broken bones have shifted away from each other and are not aligned, a doctor will need to perform a procedure known as reduction to realign the pieces so they set correctly.

Many broken ankles and feet also require immobilization using splints or casts to keep the bone in place as they heal. And finally, surgery may be necessary to correct broken feet and ankles when the break is severe.

Broken Ankle Prevention

Fortunately there are many things a person can do to prevent broken ankles. Wearing proper shoes is one of them. Proper shoes give the appropriate support for the conditions and reduce the amount of stress on the foot. In the case of steel-toed boots, they provide the appropriate protection from crushing forces.

Replacing athletic shoes regularly is also important. As a shoe gets older it starts breaking down and no longer provides the support and cushioning needed. Athletic shoes should be replaced as soon as there is any significant signs of wear such as cushioning clearly wearing out or if the tread is no longer functioning properly.

Regular exercise is also important. Exercise both increases bone density as well as the strength of the muscles in the ankles, which helps prevent twisting type breaks. Ask your doctor or look online to find ankle specific exercises.

Naturally stronger bones are harder to break. Ensuring you’re getting enough vitamin D and calcium can go a long way towards helping your bones stay healthy. To get enough calcium and vitamin D, it’s important to consider the foods you consume and your lifestyle. For calcium, ensure you’re eating enough dairy or consider a supplement. For vitamin D, make sure to spend plenty of time in the sun, or consider taking supplements to up your intake.

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Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
November 21, 2017