A Fractured Ankle Guide

A fractured or broken ankle is a serious dilapidating injury. One which will leave you unable to walk without the assistance of some type of aid, for up to three months or possibly more.

Making sure you know enough about your ankle injury to ensure that you are receiving the best treatment, is a good way to make sure you will make a swift and full recovery.

Within this guide to broken ankle injuries, you will find details on exactly what a fractured ankle is, and how these injuries are commonly caused. You will also find detailed information on how these injuries are treated, and advice on how to make sure you have the best recovery from a fractured ankle.

Selection a section:

What is a Fractured Ankle?

Fractured ankle signs vary on the seriousness of the injury. Minor fractures or avulsion injuries affect only smaller parts of bones in the ankle. Whilst more serious broken ankle injuries will involve a fracture of the fibula, tibia or even both.

Fractured Ankle Key Facts

If you take a look at a number of broken ankle pictures, one thing you will notice is that some look far worse than others. This is because this kind of injury can be very minor, sometimes going unnoticed, to extremely severe. A fractured ankle is a very common injury. Each year, approximately 5 million visits to a hospital are recorded as being related to ankle injuries, and of these, around 700,000 are full-blown ankle fractures.

Now consider some of these facts; as you walk, you are putting up to one and a half times your bodyweight on each foot in turn due to the effects of inertia. Even a person who has a fairly sedentary lifestyle will walk around a thousand miles each year. For sportsmen, their ankles can absorb up to a million pounds of pressure during a single hour of exercise. No other joint in the human body works as hard as the ankle.

The ankle bone or talus joins with the two bones of the lower leg, the fibula and tibia, and this joint is supported by three separate sets of ligaments. A very simple joint, and one which as we have seen, works very hard. This makes it a very easy to injure part of the body.

Ankle joint

Ankle joint

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Fractured Ankle?

Fractured ankle symptoms vary greatly depending on the severity of the injury. Furthermore, there can be some confusion over broken ankle symptoms vs sprain injury symptoms, as some symptoms are common to both types of injuries. Typical symptoms of a broken ankle are:

  • Significant pain on or close to the ankle joint, and tenderness of the surrounding area.
  • Heavy discolouration and bruising of the ankle or the surrounding tissue, as well as swelling from mild to extreme.
  • Extreme discomfort when moving the foot, or when trying to put weight on it.
  • The ankle is bent at an odd angle, for example, the foot is twisted to the left or right, or tilted too far down.
  • There was a snapping noise, or a grinding sensation when the injury occurred.
  • There may be bleeding close to the ankle if the fracture was serious enough to force a bone out through the skin.
  • Many people will exhibit some or all of the symptoms of shock including feeling faint, dizziness and nausea.

Because it can be so easy to confuse a minor fracture with a sprain, it is always best to seek medical attention even if you feel you are sure you have only sprained your ankle.

What Are the Most Common Causes of a Fractured Ankle?

As was mentioned earlier on this page, fractured ankle injuries are common. They are caused by a wide range of accidents and mishaps, the most usual being:

  • Road traffic accidents – especially those which involve a motorcyclist or cyclist, often cause a broken ankle.
  • Slips, trips and falls – as we would expect, the ankle, taking all of the strain while walking, is extremely vulnerable to being damaged if you take a spill.
  • Impact – usually as the result of a heavy weight being dropped onto the leg or foot, are a common cause of a broken ankle.
  • Missed steps – even something as simple as getting your footing wrong, without falling can damage the ankle and cause a fracture.
  • Stress – if you consistently overstress your ankle, the chances are that it will eventually lead to a serious injury such as a fractured ankle.

On top of the accidental causes of a fractured ankle mentioned above, some people put themselves at a far greater risk of receiving a broken ankle. Reasons for this include:

  • Suddenly increasing their level of exercise – people who begin a hard exercise regime after long periods of taking very little exercise can damage their ankle due to the fact it has become weak through being used less.
  • Participating in hard contact sports – such as football, rugby, tennis or hockey may break an ankle through a direct blow, or from having the ankle twisted.
  •  Using improper or badly maintained sports equipment – using faulty or even improper sports equipment can result in serious injury including an ankle fracture.
  • Accidents in the workplace – in some working environments, such as an industrial facility, a factory or a construction site, the level of exposure to accidents which could result in a broken ankle is high.

These are just a selection of the ways in which people may be putting themselves at increased risk of receiving a fractured ankle injury, there are many more.

How to Get a Free Expert Orthopaedic Assessment for Your Broken Bone Report

If you have suffered a fractured ankle, it is important that you know you are receiving the very best treatment, aimed at getting you back on your feet as quickly as possible.

In order to make sure you are being treated in the correct manner, the broken bone report that the hospital will have provided you with can be evaluated by a private orthopaedic specialist. In many cases, we can help you to arrange for an entirely free expert orthopaedic assessment. All you need to do is give us a call. We will quickly be able to tell you if we think you are eligible for a free orthopaedic assessment.

How is a Fractured Ankle Treated?

Before your ankle injury can be treated, it needs to be given an ankle fracture classification. Is it a minor fracture of the talus? Or a more serious fracture of the fibula or tibia? The break of ankle bone is treated slightly differently for each bone.

If you think that you may have fractured your ankle, you need to seek medical care immediately. However, there are a number of things that you can do yourself, to make sure that your injury is cared for until you reach a hospital or clinic, and to give you the best chance of a full recovery.

The first thing you are going to need to do is decided which is the best way for you to actually receive initial treatment. If you have a very serious broken ankle, with one or more bones breaking through the skin, then don’t waste any time on this decision, pick up the phone and dial 999 straight away. If you have a fractured ankle that isn’t in need of immediate treatment to stop bleeding, and you have a friend or relative available who can drive you, then you have two choices. You can go to the Accident & Emergency Department at your local Hospital, or you can visit the local Minor Injuries Unit if you feel your ankle injury is fairly minor.

Whilst you are travelling to the hospital, make sure that you do not put any weight on the leg with the damaged ankle. Make sure to keep it supported, propping it up on something like a cushion if you can, in the back seat of a car.

If your ankle was wounded, resulted in a cut or graze which is bleeding, then apply constant pressure to the wound with a gauze pad or a bandage to stop this bleeding.

You can use a bag of frozen vegetables taken straight from your freezer and wrapped in a towel as an ice pack. Apply this to the ankle to help reduce swelling and alleviate pain on the way to the hospital for fractured ankle treatment.

Try not to eat or drink on the way to the hospital. If a doctor suggests that you need surgery to re-align the bones of your ankle, you won’t be able to go under anaesthetic on a full stomach.

You will need the support of another person to help you walk from your transport into the A&E Department. Although most A&E Departments do have wheelchairs for public use, they may already all be in use.

As initial ankle fracture treatment, you will be given painkillers, and a nurse may apply an ankle support to your leg, to stop your fractured ankle from moving until you have been seen by a doctor. At this stage, you will likely be sent for an ankle X-ray to discern how bad your broken ankle actually is. Depending on how severe the break is, treatment will vary.

Treatment for minor ankle fractures:

If the swelling around the ankle is not too severe, a supportive boot, splint or cast will be fitted. If the swelling is still extensive, the doctor may decide to wait and let the swelling go down before they fit the cast. The cast itself may be the older style plaster cast, but more commonly it will be a modern fibreglass type.

If your doctor believes it is safe for you to put a little weight on your ankle once it is protected by a cast, you may be given crutches or a walking frame to help you get around. You will be given enough painkillers to see you through until you visit the hospital for a follow-up check, and also instruction on how to care for your plaster cast.

Treatment for serious ankle fractures:

For a serious break of ankle, the bones may need to be put back into place so that they heal correctly. Your doctor will have a nurse administer an injection to numb your leg, and the doctor will then use their hands to realign the bones before fitting your cast.

If the doctor cannot move the bones back into place using their hands alone, you will need surgery to do so. In many cases, plates, screws and rods will be temporarily fixed to the broken bones to keep them from moving whilst they heal. These will be removed later.

What Free Private Treatment Can I Qualify For?

Many people will be able to receive some free private treatment for their broken ankle. The range of treatment available depends on where you live. This free private treatment can help you recover better, and make sure you receive the best treatment possible. Call us today, and we can check to find out if you are eligible for any of this free private treatment for your fractured ankle.

Is There Any Other Good Treatment I Can Get for Free?

You could be able to claim a number of free medical supplies to assist in your recovery. For example, a free ankle brace or some free crutches to help you get about. A large number of people are eligible for this type of free medical support. Contact us now to find out what you may be able to claim for free.

How Long Does a Fractured Ankle Take to Heal?

It is impossible to give a single answer to the question how long does it take to heal a fractured ankle? Many aspects of the injury will have an effect upon the fractured ankle recovery time, with the single most important driver being the severity of the injury.

During your fractured ankle recovery, you will need to keep your cast or ankle brace on at all times. Typically, it takes around six weeks before the cast is ready to come off, but it can be longer, sometimes up to 12 weeks or even more. Below, we have given some broken ankle recovery tips which if followed, will help to speed up your recovery.

  • Make sure you do exactly what your doctor tells you with regard to how much weight you can put on your ankle. Even if you are on crutches, a doctor will usually advise that you don’t attempt to walk unless you really have to. Even people who are sent home without crutches, with just a cast to walk on, are usually told to keep walking to a minimum.
  • To shorten your fractured ankle recovery time don’t do anything which could further damage your ankle. This includes anything that would put a heavy weight on your damaged leg.
  • Take care of your cast, especially if it is the older plaster type, which is easily damaged through exposure to water. Keep your cast dry at all times, and make sure your leg is supported whenever you can.
  • An ankle brace or cast will partially immobilise your whole leg. Be sure to exercise that leg gently and regularly. Stretching the upper leg muscles and wiggling the toes will stop your whole leg from stiffening up.
  • For serious fractures, especially those that required broken ankle surgery, be sure to keep an eye on the ankle. If the skin starts to change colour, or you start to get strange sensations such as pins and needles, or if the flesh becomes red and inflamed hinting at infection, you must contact your doctor straight away.
  • Once you are well on the road to recovery, ask your doctor can you walk on a fractured ankle? It is likely that after several weeks, your doctor will encourage you to start walking a little more each day, to help prepare you for the day your cast comes off.
  • When your cast is finally cut off, your leg will be much weaker than it was before the injury. Several weeks without using the leg will have seen some muscle wastage occur. It will take several more weeks to build up the strength in your leg again.

How Can I Recover Safer and Possibly Faster?

The road to a faster recovery and the answer to the question how to start walking after a broken ankle as quickly as possible? could lay in having access to high-quality private physiotherapy.

Many people are eligible for private physio to help them back to work after a broken ankle. If you give us a call, we can let you know within 30 seconds whether you are one of these people.

What are the Possible Complications with a Fractured Ankle?

With a broken ankle in cast, there is always a risk, however minor, that complications could occur. Although the broken ankle x ray should have shown the doctor everything about your injury, something may have been missed that leads to a complication further down the line.

Pain and swelling are the most common complications with a broken ankle. As are general stiffness in the foot and the ankle once the injury has healed. With broken ankle swelling how long it lasts will usually depend on how disciplined you are with regards to keeping the ankle well rested.

More serious complications include:

  • Incorrect healing – when the ankle bones knit back together in the wrong way. Although doctors do try resetting the bones before they apply a cast, sometimes they shift afterwards, leading to a badly healed break.
  • Infection – especially common with ankle fractures that required corrective surgery or were caused by a trauma wound that resulted in a cut or gash.
  • Nerve injuries – sometimes long-lasting nerve damage is caused by the fracture. This leads to loss of feeling and numbness, or other sensation such as pins and needles and tingling in the foot or toes.
  • Lack of blood flow – this is called Compartment Syndrome and is caused by a cast or brace being too tight and restricting blood flow to the leg, ankle and foot. This can cause a significant level of pain, it can also result in long-term damage to the foot.

Do You Think Your Doctor Might Have Missed Something About Your Injury?

Although a break in ankle bones should be pretty easy to spot in a fractured ankle x-ray sometimes doctors do miss things, they are overworked, and mistakes are made despite best intentions. The more you know about your injury and the way it should be treated, then the better equipped you are to make sure you are receiving the correct treatment. The links below lead to websites that will give you far more detailed information about your fractured ankle than this short guide:

NHS – Fractured Ankle Information
Find Your Closest Accident & Emergency Department
A Guide to Physiotherapy

Are There Any Long-Term Health Issues Caused by a Fractured Ankle?

The major long-term health issue that people who have suffered a fractured ankle are at risk from, is arthritis later on in their life. Once the bones of the ankle have been broken and then healed, they will generally wear less well than bones that have never been broken. This leads to the onset of osteoarthritis.

Contact Us to Find Out if You Qualify for Free Private Treatment

Do you realise that you may be eligible to claim some type of private medical treatment or support for your fractured ankle?

This could be in the form of a specific medical device like a pair of crutches, or access to the professional opinion of a private doctor to create an orthopaedic report. Some people may even be able to get free private physiotherapy to help them recover faster from their broken ankle.

Contact us now on 020 3870 4868 and within a single short phone call, we will be able to tell you all of the free private medical care and support that we think you will be able to claim.