Broken Ankle


Overview and symptoms of a broken ankle

A broken ankle is an injury to the bones that make up your ankle, including the talus (ankle bone) and the ends of the tibia (shin bone) and fibula (calf bone).

Symptoms

The symptoms and degree of damage or disability you experience will depend on how many bones are involved and the severity of your ankle fracture.  

Signs of a broken ankle can include:

  • Bruising
  • Deformity
  • Difficulty walking or bearing weight
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Swelling

You may also notice changes in your gait, such as walking differently, limping, and feeling unstable.

Causes

An injury typically causes a broken ankle. This includes rolling or twisting your ankle during everyday activities.

Broken ankles are also caused by impact from falls, sports, or vehicle collisions.

Stress fractures often occur as a result of overuse or repeated high-impact activities.

Types

Ankle fractures can be caused by a direct impact that breaks one or more of the bones that comprise the ankle. They can also be caused by rolling or twisting the ankle, overflexing or extending the joint, or landing on the feet from a height.

Fractures can be:

  • Displaced: involving the movement of the bone so that the pieces are misaligned or in the wrong place
  • Non-displaced: in which the broken bones remain in place

Non-displaced ankle fractures can also be categorized based on whether the break is complete or not:

  • Complete fractures occur when the bone is completely broken into two pieces
  • Partial fractures occur when the bone is only partially cracked

Depending on what part of the ankle is broken, your ankle fracture can be further categorized as follows:

  • Lateral malleolus fracture: involving the “bump” on the end of your tibia on the outside of your ankle
  • Bimalleolar ankle fracture: involving the “bumps” on both the inside and outside of your ankle
  • Trimalleolar ankle fracture: involving both “bumps” on the end of your tibia, as well as the base of the fibula
  • Pilond ankle fracture: involving the top of the ankle bone or talus; this break is less common and is usually from falling from a height straight down onto the foot

Ankle fractures often, but not always, involve soft tissue injuries such as ligament tears.

Risk factors

Athletes and older adults are typically at higher risk for ankle injuries.

This is because bones tend to become weaker with age, and those engaged in high-impact sports are more likely to experience impact-related injuries.

Prevention

Accidental injuries typically cause broken bones.

While it’s not possible to eliminate the risk of accidents, you can reduce your risk of fractures by managing your activities and overall bone health:

  • Use caution when engaging in high-impact sports. Activities like soccer, basketball, football, climbing, and skiing are all common causes of ankle injuries.
  • Use supportive footwear to reduce the chance of a rolled ankle.
  • Consume sufficient calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones strong.
  • Engage in weight-bearing exercise often to maintain bone strength as you age. Activities such as walking, hiking, and jogging, which all involve a heel strike, are especially beneficial.
  • Strengthen the ligaments protecting your ankle bones; your soft tissue stabilizes your joint and can help prevent ankle injuries.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.