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Ankle and Foot Fractures

There are 28 bones in the foot and ankle complex. These bones in partnership with 25 joints and supporting soft tissues are responsible for providing balance, supporting an individual’s body weight in an upright posture, and facilitating a diverse range of movements including standing, walking, running and jumping. As the foot and ankle work together to propel the body through movement at different speeds, they are able to sustain forces that are up to several times an individual’s body weight, as well as adapt to most types of surfaces that are underfoot.

However, supporting the body in all upright movements exposes the foot and ankle to constant physical stress. This is one of the reasons that a broken ankle or a broken foot is a common injury. Events such as a simple misstep, repetitive stress and overuse, and falling or tripping can all result in a fracture. In addition trauma that is sustained from a direct blow, from a crushing injury that occurs in an accident, or from the impact of a heavy weight dropped on the foot or ankle can also lead to broken bones in these areas. Bones in this region that have been weakened by disease processes such as osteoporosis or cancer may be more vulnerable to fracture.

An ankle or foot fracture is a painful and debilitating injury that impairs mobility and disrupts normal daily activities. These fractures can occur as either an isolated injury or in conjunction with other soft tissue injuries. The severity depends upon the location of the fracture, the degree and type of fracture, and the damage to the surrounding tissues. In some cases there may be signs of an obvious deformity, the skin may appear stretched over the underlying bone, or bone may actually be exposed. If not treated promptly these fractures can have dangerous complications and result in long lasting impairment.

Symptoms of a broken ankle or foot may include:

  • Pain
  • Difficulty bearing weight/limping
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Deformity

Nerve and blood vessel injuries can cause additional symptoms including paleness, numbness, or an inability to move the ankle, the foot, or the toes.

Treatment of ankle fractures depends upon the type and severity of the injury. Some ankle fractures can be treated without surgery. If the bones are aligned, a period of immobilization with a splint or cast may be sufficient. In many cases an ankle fracture will require a surgical procedure to repair the bone along with any associated soft tissue related injuries. Similarly the treatment of a foot fracture depends upon the type and severity of the injury, which bone in the foot is broken, what part of the bone is broken, as well as where this bone is located in the foot. Foot fracture treatment can range from buddy taping an uncomplicated toe fracture all the way to complex surgical procedures designed to restore bone integrity, the surrounding soft tissues, and foot function.