A broken (fractured) ankle can involve any one or more of the three bones of the ankle joint. It can also result in damage to the surrounding soft tissues. A break may result from a fall, automobile accident or some other trauma to the ankle.The ankle joint is made up of these three bones
• The shin bone (tibia)
• The other leg bone(fibula)
• The ankle bone (talus)
Symptoms of a broken ankle
Symptoms of an ankle fracture include:
• At the time of injury a snap or pop sound may be heard
• Difficulty in moving the ankle joint
• tender to touch
• swelling around the ankle and foot
• deformity (sometimes)
• discoloured skin, or bruising, which can appear hours to days after the injury.
On rare occasions you may have an open wound with an ankle fracture.
In most cases you doctor will diagnose your ankle fracture. The doctor will ask about the injury and assess your symptoms. If a fracture is suspected then an x-ray will be done to confirm which bone/s is broken and what type of fracture has occurred.
Following a fracture of the ankle the immediate treatment is immobilization of the ankle, compression, elevation and application of ice packs.
The type and severity of the fracture will determine the medical management of your ankle. In most case the bones are set back into place and then the ankle is put in a cast for 6-8 weeks. If the ankle bones cannot be aligned properly before the cast is put on then surgery may be required. In the case of less severe fractures walking in the cast may be allowed after a few weeks.
In the first 2 to 3 weeks after the injury, the ankle should be elevated on pillows and ice packs should be placed on top of the cast for 20 to 30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours to help reduce swelling. It is also important to keep the toes and the rest of the leg moving to maintain circulation and a reasonable amount of strength. Your physiotherapist would be able to provide you with some exercises for the period of time that your ankle is in the cast.
Following the removal of the cast and healing of the fracture your physiotherapist will be able to help you in your return to activity. In most cases the ankle is usually stiff due to being immobilized and there is also usually some pain, residual swelling, tightness and weakness of soft tissues. The initial aim of treatment would be to restore range of motion at the ankle, reduce pain and swelling. Your physiotherapist may use in this early stage electrotherapeutic modalities, ice, massage, and mobilizations. They would also provide you with gentle exercise to begin to get the ankle moving.
Once your ankle range is improving treatment will also begin to focus on the soft tissues. Treatment would then also include exercise to stretch and strengthen the soft tissues. Proprioception (balance) exercise would also be commenced to prevent further injuries occurring. In the long term your therapist will assist you in your gradual return to daily activities and then if required to sport.