What is an ankle fracture?

An ankle fracture is a break in one or more bones that make up the ankle joint. Sometimes ligaments (a short band of tough, flexible fibrous tissue which connects two bones, cartilage or holds together a joint) may also be damaged. Ankle injuries are the most common sports-related injuries and motor vehicle accidents. The rolling or twisting motion the ankle experiences during these injuries damages the bones and ligaments. The damage can also be caused by tripping, impact or falling.

Definition of Ankle Fracture – AAOS.


People participating in sports such as basketball, football, soccer and skiing are at a high risk of developing ankle fractures.

Common symptoms of an ankle fracture include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling around the ankle
  • Bruising
  • Tender to touch
  • Inability to walk or put pressure on the leg and;
  • Deformity if the ankle is dislocated.

Ankle injury diagnosis

Following an ankle injury, it is important to have the ankle evaluated by your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Diagnosis is made based on the history of injury and physical examination of the ankle. In addition, the surgeon may order X-ray of the ankle to determine the extent of the injury.

Ankle injury treatment

Treatment varies with the type and severity of the injury. The common method of treatment of ankle fractures is adequate rest, ice application, leg elevation, and medications to reduce swelling and pain. A short leg cast or a brace may be applied over the fractured ankle to provide support. If there is severe injury, excessive swelling or severe pain, you should seek immediate medical treatment.

Some ankle fractures are treated with a splint, which is placed on the ankle for few days until the swelling subsides. Once the swelling decreases a cast may be placed on the ankle to hold the broken bone in a specific place. Surgery may be needed to realign the bones before placing the splint. During surgery, your doctor may place metal screws, plates, or rods to hold the broken bone intact until the healing happens. In some cases, crutches may be used to prevent the ankle from bearing weight.

It is important to use proper fitting shoes for the particular sports activity to reduce the chances of injury.

See the topics below to find out more from the Orthopaedic connection website of American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

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