What is it: A broken ankle is also known as an ankle “fracture.” This means that one or more of the bones that make up the ankle joint are separated into pieces. There may be ligaments damaged as well.
Important Facts: Besides a physical exam, X-rays are the most common way to evaluate an injured ankle. X-rays may be taken of the leg, ankle, and foot to make sure nothing else is injured.
Statistics: Ankle fractures occur in 184 per 100,000 persons per year. During the past 30 to 40 years, doctors have noted an increase in the number and severity of broken ankles, due in part to an active, older population of “baby boomers.” In 2003, nearly 1.2 million people visited emergency rooms because of ankle problems.
Treatment Duration: It takes at least six weeks for the broken bones to heal. It may take longer for the involved ligaments and tendons to heal.
Do’s/Don’ts: Rehabilitation is very important regardless of how an ankle fracture is treated.
When your physician allows you to start moving your ankle, physical therapy and home exercise programs are very important. Doing your exercises regularly is key.
Common Myths: “It can’t be broken, because I can move it.” False; this widespread idea has kept many fractures from receiving proper treatment. The truth is that often you can walk with certain kinds of fractures. Some common examples: breaks of the thinner of the two leg bones; small “chip” fractures of either foot or ankle bones; and the frequently neglected fracture of a toe.