A fractured ankle, also known as an ankle fracture, is a break in one or more of the bones that make up the ankle joint. The ankle joint is made up of three bones: the tibia, the fibula, and the talus. An ankle fracture can occur when any of these bones are broken or when there is damage to the ligaments that connect them. Ankle fractures can range from mild to severe, depending on the location and extent of the break.
Causes of Fractured Ankle
Ankle fractures can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
Trauma: The most common cause of an ankle fracture is a sudden injury or trauma to the ankle, such as a fall, a twisting motion, or a direct blow to the ankle.
Sports injuries: Activities that involve running, jumping, or sudden changes in direction, such as basketball or soccer, can put stress on the ankle and increase the risk of a fracture.
Osteoporosis: People with osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones and makes them more prone to fractures, are at a higher risk of developing an ankle fracture.
Repetitive stress: Overuse or repetitive stress on the ankle, such as from running or jumping, can weaken the bones and increase the risk of a fracture.
Motor vehicle accidents: High-impact collisions, such as those that occur in car accidents, can cause severe ankle fractures.
Aging: As we age, our bones become weaker and more brittle, making us more susceptible to fractures.
Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, or arthritis, can increase the risk of developing an ankle fracture.
Signs and Symptoms of Fractured Ankle
The signs and symptoms of an ankle fracture may include:
- Pain: The most common symptom of an ankle fracture is pain, which may be severe and sharp.
- Swelling: Ankle fractures often cause significant swelling in the affected area.
- Bruising: Bruising may occur around the ankle or on the foot.
- Tenderness: The affected area may be tender to the touch.
- Deformity: The ankle may appear deformed or out of alignment, particularly if the fracture is severe.
- Inability to bear weight: It may be difficult or impossible to bear weight on the affected foot.
- Stiffness: The ankle may feel stiff or difficult to move.
- Numbness or tingling: In some cases, nerve damage may occur, leading to numbness or tingling in the foot or ankle.
If you suspect that you have an ankle fracture, it is important to seek medical attention right away. Delaying treatment can lead to complications and may prolong the healing process.
Treatment for Fractured Ankle
Physiotherapy treatment for an ankle fracture typically involves several stages, depending on the severity of the fracture and the individual’s specific needs. The goals of physiotherapy are to reduce pain and swelling, restore range of motion, and improve strength and function in the affected ankle. Some common physiotherapy interventions for ankle fractures include:
Immobilization: In the initial stages of treatment, the ankle may need to be immobilized in a cast, brace, or splint to allow the bones to heal.
Range of motion exercises: Once the fracture has started to heal, the physiotherapist may recommend gentle range of motion exercises to help restore flexibility and mobility to the ankle.
Strengthening exercises: As the ankle heals, strengthening exercises may be recommended to help rebuild the muscles that support the ankle joint.
Balance training: To prevent falls and re-injury, balance training exercises may be recommended to improve stability and coordination.
Modalities: Other physiotherapy modalities, such as heat, ice, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation, may be used to help reduce pain and swelling.
Gait training: In the later stages of recovery, the physiotherapist may work with the individual to improve their walking and running patterns, and help them return to their normal daily activities.
It is important to work closely with a qualified physiotherapist to develop an individualized treatment plan that meets your specific needs and goals.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about fractured ankle please call us at 03 9836 1126.
van Dijk, C. N., Lim, L. S., Bossuyt, P. M., Marti, R. K., & Scholten, R. J. (2018). Treatment of ankle fractures: a systematic review of the available evidence. JBJS Reviews