The foot and ankle contain twenty-eight bones. Together, the two feet contain a quarter of the bones in the entire human body. Any of these bones can be broken as a result of an impact or severe twisting injury of the ankle.
With the accident you may hear or feel a cracking sound and your foot will swell up immediately after you injure it. There will most likely be swelling and bruising.
With a clear fracture, a bone may stick out at an angle and you will be able to see that it is broken. In very severe cases, it could even pierce through the skin and stick out of your ankle or foot.
Even in the case of a small fracture, the pain can be intense. Mild pressure on the area will be extremely painful.
In some cases it is difficult to assess whether your ankle is fractured or severely sprained. If you have rested for a few days, applying ice on your ankle and maintaining elevation, and you do not see any improvement in the swelling and pain, your ankle may be broken. An X-ray is the next step.
Foot and ankle fractures are relatively common injuries. They can be the result of a simple fall or a relatively violent accident. Certain diseases such as osteoporosis or bone cancer can make the bones fragile enough to be broken by a smaller impact.
A fracture occurs when you break one of your bones. Break, fracture, crack – the words all mean the same, namely that the bone is damaged. There are varying degrees of severity in broken bones. In more extreme cases there can even be a complete shattering of the bone. It is very important that your specialist determines with certainty the exact location of the bone injury. This requires X-rays and occasionally a scan too.
Many Accident and Emergency departments routinely put patients with ankle or foot fractures into a plaster cast and insist on the patient keeping weight off the limb, with crutches. In reality, this “safety first” approach is too cautious. Many patients can, after proper assessment, be allowed to walk without plaster and will then make a much quicker recovery.
Our specialists will assist you in establishing a definitive diagnosis, and give you advice as to how best to treat your injury. Our goal is to get you back to normal as quickly as possible. The sooner you are free of crutches and casts, the sooner you can resume “normal life” – work, driving and holidays are all frequently disrupted needlessly through “safety first” and delay in proper assessment.
Sometimes patients are able to walk or place some weight on their foot even with a fracture, so your doctor will X-ray your foot and ankle to be sure of the diagnosis. The good news is that ankle bones usually heal well. Recovery time is fairly rapid, generally taking 6 to 12 weeks. However, your doctor may advise you to wait several months before returning to sports that have a high impact on the ankle such as running. If you play sports at a high level, it may therefore be a long time before you can go back to your previous athletic level. Some degree of swelling can occasionally last for many months.
If the bone has remained in a good shape, and the fracture is stable, your doctor will be able to treat the injury simply by applying a brace right away.
However, if the fracture was more severe, causing damage to surrounding tissues or resulting in loose bone fragments, surgery may be needed to put the pieces back together before a splint or plaster cast is applied to support the ankle.