Ankle Fracture

A broken ankle is a break in one or both of the bones that make up the ankle joint.

What is it?

A broken ankle is a break in one or both of the bones that make up the ankle joint. These bones are the tibia and the fibula. 

what causes it?

Ankle breaks, or fractures, can occur in many ways: for example by falls, contact sports and exercise injuries, and force from a blow. There are many types of fractures, which determine the severity of the injury and its treatment: 

  • Non-displaced fracture: the broken pieces of a bone remain properly aligned.
  • Displaced fracture: the broken pieces of bone are not properly aligned.
  • Comminuted fracture: there are more than two pieces of bone at the fracture.
  • Compound (open) fracture: one end of the broken bone has broken through the skin.
  • Closed fracture: neither end of the broken bone has pierced the skin.
  • Impacted fracture: the ends of the broken bone are driven into each other. 
  • Avulsion fracture: the muscle or ligament has pulled a portion of the bone away from where it was originally attached. 
  • Pathological fracture: the bone has been weakened or destroyed by disease (such as osteoporosis) so that the bone breaks easily.

signs and symptoms

Symptoms of an ankle fracture include: 

  • A snapping or popping sound at the time of the injury
  • Loss of function (hurts to move the ankle)
  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Deformity (sometimes)
  • Discolored skin, or bruising, which appears hours to days after the injury.

Rarely, you may have an open wound with an ankle fracture. 


To diagnose an ankle fracture, the doctor will review your symptoms, ask about how the injury occurred, and examine you. The doctor will also order x-rays. Several different views of the bone may be taken to pinpoint the fracture. 


The immediate emergency treatment for a fractured ankle is immobilization (keeping it from moving), elevation, compression (wrapping it with an elastic or Ace bandage), and the application of ice packs. The doctor may need to set your ankle bone back into its proper place and put you in a cast for for 6 to 8 weeks. If the fracture is not too severe, you may be able to walk in the cast after a short period. If the ankle bone cannot be aligned perfectly before it is ready for a cast, surgery will be necessary. In the first 2 to 3 weeks after the injury, be sure to keep your ankle elevated on pillows and place ice packs on top of the cast for 20 to 30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours to help reduce swelling. 

You should also:

  • Make sure the cast does not get wet. Cover the cast with plastic when you bathe. 
  • Use crutches or a cain, as directed by your doctor. Your doctor will tell you how much weight you can put on your leg, if any.
  • Do not scratch the skin around the cast or poke things down the cast.

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