Ankle Fractures: 5 Common Symptoms and Treatment Methods to Know

by Dr. Jacob M. Wisbeck, MedStar Orthopaedic Institute
December 10, 2019

Millions of people experience ankle fractures (broken ankles) each year—but not all ankle fractures are the same. In fact, an ankle fracture can range from a small avulsion fragment, to a complex injury including several bones, and even a possible dislocation.

Ankle fractures affect people of all ages, but common scenarios that lead to them include:

  • High energy injury, such as car or motorcycle accidents
  • Jumping on a trampoline
  • Playing sports
  • Falls from heights
  • Slipping on ice
  • Low energy injury, such as twisting injuries

When you experience an ankle fracture, it could feel similar to an ankle sprain. In fact, sometimes you are even able to weight bear with limited discomfort.  A more serious ankle fracture often result in the inability to bear weight and can necessitate surgery. Let’s discuss key signs that you’ve broken an ankle, common treatment options, and ways you can decrease your risk of another ankle fracture.

Signs You Broke Your Ankle

A broken bone might sound like something that you’d be able to notice right away. However, an ankle fracture can sometimes feel the same as an ankle sprain, making it difficult to tell you have a fracture.

Common symptoms of an ankle fracture include:

  • Bruising
  • Difficulty walking
  • Immediate and severe pain
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
In some cases, a broken ankle can feel like a #sprainedankle. Learn common symptoms of ankle breaks and fractures and when to see a doctor via @MedStarHealth

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If you suspect you’ve broken your ankle, you should stay off it, use crutches if you can, and visit an urgent care center or emergency room. You will likely need an X-ray to confirm your injury. First-line treatment typically includes icing your ankle, as it helps reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. You also want to keep weight off your ankle until you visit a doctor to avoid further injury.

Treatment for Ankle Fractures

Treatment for ankle fractures can consist of wearing a boot brace to protect your ankle while it heals. In some cases, it’s very similar to treatment for a sprained ankle. In fact, I’ve seen some people recover from what they thought was an ankle sprain in six weeks only to later find out their injury was actually an ankle fracture.  Treatment in a boot brace is reserved for stable, non-displaced fractures or for those who surgical intervention may not be an option due to other concerns, such as medical comorbidities.

More serious ankle fractures, such as when ankle bones are significantly displaced, the fracture pattern shows signs of instability, or the fracture has a history of difficulty healing may require surgery. During surgery, we will re-position your bones so that they line up correctly, and place plate and screws as needed into the fractured ankle to stabilize it.

Recovery time following an ankle fracture varies depending on the type and severity of your injury. But in general, people typically start progressing weight bearing between four to 12 weeks, hopefully returning to their normal activities once fully healed.

How to Help Prevent Fractures

Bone health is vital when it comes to reducing your risk of experiencing a broken bone. You can strengthen your bones by consuming the proper amount of nutrients such as vitamin D and calcium. Our team of orthopaedic foot and ankle specialists at the MedStar Orthopaedic Institute can connect you with an endocrinologist, who can help determine your bone health and ways to improve it.

If you suffer an ankle injury, it’s also important to receive care from doctors who specialize in orthopaedic foot and ankle care. Our team is made up of experts in the field of orthopaedics—completing extensive residency programs in orthopaedics and additional training in specialty areas related to the ankle and foot. We are also involved with all the latest research and technology, providing you with the best possible care.

If you’ve suffered an injury to your ankle, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to receive an accurate diagnosis and get on the road to recovery.

Experiencing ankle pain and want to visit a specialist?
Schedule an appointment with Dr. Wisbeck today.

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