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Broken Ankle: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Recovery

Broken Ankle
Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Recovery

A broken ankle, also commonly known as ankle fracture, is one of the most common joint and bone injuries. It is caused when one or more of the bones making up the ankle joints are broken. It can range from a simple break in one of these bones caused due to excessive walking, or several fractures causing the ankle to go out of place. It can also be accompanied with damage to the ligaments which hold the joint and ankle bones in place. Broken ankles can happen to anyone regardless of their gender, age or their athletic ability.


Types of Ankle Injury

The ankle injuries can occur in any part of the ankle including:

  • The tibia
  • The fibula
  • The talus


The Causes of an Ankle Injury

  • Broken ankles, though unfortunate, are a common injury. About half of these are caused as a result of an athletic injury, while the remaining half is caused in normal daily activities. It can also be caused by something as simple as rolling the ankle as you are stepping down from a curb or walking on an uneven ground. Here are some common life events that result in a broken ankle or a fracture in one of its bones.
  • Rolling, rotating or twisting your ankle
  • A trip or slip which cause you to land on your ankle, putting pressure on it
  • As a result of an impact in an accident
  • Falling or jumping causing you to land on your feet heavily
  • Something heavy falling on your ankle


The Symptoms of a Broken Ankle

If there is a small or hairline fracture in the ankle, you will not have problems to continue with your daily activities normally. However, if you delay the diagnosis and treatment, the small fracture or break can develop into a major one. A broken ankle feels the same as an ankle that has been sprained. Therefore, it is important to get the injury evaluated and diagnosed from a professional as early as possible so you can get the right medical attentions on the right time. Since not all ankle fractures restrict your ability to walk, it is important you know how to differentiate between a sprain and a fracture.

Here are some common symptoms you can experience if you have fractures or broken your ankle:

  • A severe and immediate pain in the ankle. The pain may radiate up to the shinbone and to the bottom of the foot in many cases
  • Discoloration, redness and bruising of the lower leg
  • Swelling of the ankle joint
  • Inability to put weight on the injured ankle and leg
  • Hanging of the foot in an unnatural position, twisting to one side or looking out of place
  • The ankle is tender and painful to touch

If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, chances are you might have broken or fractured your ankle. Ankle and foot injuries are difficult to diagnose, especially if you are trying to diagnose them yourself. It is important if you notice pain or any of the symptoms mentioned above, consult with a doctor at your earliest so the treatment can begin immediately and is not delayed leading to more problems in the ankle.

Here are some simple tips you can use to provide immediate attention, comfort and care to the fractured ankle while you are in transit to the hospital for diagnosis and treatment:

  • Use a kitchen towel or a compression bandage to wrap the ankle and then apply an ice pack to it if it is unbroken. This will help in controlling swelling. Make sure you do not apply ice directly to naked skin.
  • Do not put weight on the broken ankle to avoid any further complications and injuries. Also try to keep the injured ankle elevated to control and decrease swelling.
  • If you see the bones protruding through the skin, do not try to push them back into place. Cover it using a clean dressing, towel or cloth, and get medical attention immediately to prevent any more damage.
  • Using anti-inflammatory, aspirin or non-steroid medications can also help in relieving pain while you wait for medical help. Make sure you follow the dosage instruction provided on the medicine and do not take these medications if you have some other underlying problems


Diagnosis of a Broken Ankle

Once you reach the doctor, they will ask you for a brief medical history, the symptoms and will inquire you about how the injury took place. Later, the doctor will carefully examine your ankle, lower leg and foot to determine where exactly the injury might be. The doctor will most likely order some more tests to be done as a broken ankle and a sprained ankle usually have similar symptoms. These additional tests can range from a simple X-Ray to an MRI.

  • X-Rays: Ankle fractures, or any other fractures in the body, are best diagnosed through an X-Ray. It is an imaging technique which can tell if there is a fracture in the ankle or dislocation of the joint. The severity of ankle fractures can also be determined through X-Ray
  • CAT: This technique offers a cross-sectional image of the ankle joint, ankle and the rest of the leg. It is a painless test and can show both soft and hard tissues. It is helpful in diagnosing the fractures that may not have been captured by the X-Ray. CAT scans can also show dislocation or sprains in the ankle.
  • MRI: This technique creates are high-resolution image of the bones, ligaments and the tissues in the ankle, foot and leg. If there is a hint of soft tissue damage shown by X-Ray and CAT, an MRI is ordered by the doctor.
Treatment Options for a Broken Ankle

You will get a treatment plan once the diagnosis is complete. The treatment plan depends on the type and severity of the injury you have sustained. The recovery time can range from 6 to 12 weeks and even longer in severe cases.


Surgical Treatment

If there is extensive damage to the bones, ligaments and tissues of the ankle, you might be subjected to a surgery. The doctor might conduct the surgery right away for the bones to repair and heal quickly. If there is a lot of swelling in the ankle, the doctor can also place you in a splint so the swelling can subside before the surgery can be done.


Non-Surgical Treatment

If the doctor finds your ankle to be stable and the fracture to not be dislocated, your doctor may treat you non-surgically. There are many ways to treat the fractured ankle non-surgically including air cast, ankle brace, fiberglass cast or a walking boot. The doctor also advises the patient not to put any weight on the injured ankle for at least six weeks.



The treatment and time for recovery depends on the severity of the fracture in the ankle. It can range from a few weeks to several months depending on the type of fracture. Since you will not be allowed to put any weight on the injured ankle during this time, you have to look for devices that can help you in staying mobile while you are non-weight bearing. Here are some devices you can use:



Traditional crutches allow you to move while keeping weigh off the broken ankle. It requires using both your hands which can be difficult for some who are not able to maintain proper balance, or when doing any other routine activity like caring for children or holding something in the hands. This leads to the patient walking on the injured ankle too soon leading to serious complications. These can also cause pain in hands and arms and the person might also trip over if not using it right which can aggravate the situation and may increase the recovery time. Traditional crutches also do not keep the injured ankle elevated as is prescribed by the doctor which also increases the recovery time.


Knee Walker or Knee Scooter

Another, and a far better option than using the traditional crutches, is using a knee scooter or knee walker. These require lesser upper body strength and do not cause any pain in the arms and hands. You will also not be required to use any extra effort to move yourself as there are wheels attached to the bottom. You can rest your leg easily on the comfortable seat provided and can move about easily and do the routine chores without much hassle. It also keeps the ankle elevated, as advised by the doctor, which leads to better and speedy recovery of the broken ankle.


Breaking your ankle can be a painful experience, but with the right treatment plan and the right devices such as knee scooter, you can speed up the recovery and healing process. Get in touch with us for the best knee scooters and walkers to make you recovery process smooth and hassle free.

 This is for informational purposes only, please remember to consult your doctor.  

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