Ankle Fracture (Broken Ankle)
What is an Ankle Fracture?
An ankle fracture is where the is a break (fracture) within one or more of the three bones that constitute your ankle. These are your tibia (shin bone), fibula (outside leg bone) and your talus (a smaller bone that sits above your heel and articulates with its concave upper surface under your tibia and fibula).
How Do You Treat a Fractured Ankle?
Each ankle fracture needs specific rehabilitation based on its injury type and fracture stability.
Unstable fractures will almost always require surgical stabilisation followed by physiotherapy to restore your range of motion, strength, proprioception, balance and function. The most common procedure is an Open Reduction with Internal Fixation (ORIF). Essentially, your ankle surgeon with use metal pates and screws to stabilise your ankle to allow the bones to heal.
Stable fractures may be treated with a protective and supportive splint and monitored for appropriate fracture healing. If they show signs of instability, then your surgeon may consider operative stabilisation.
The anatomic reduction (restoring your bone alignment as close to pre-fracture as possible) is necessary to restore the normal anatomy of this important weight-bearing joint. Poor post-fracture alignment can have significant implications for the development of tibiotalar joint arthritis and reduced function.
It is important that you are compliant with your doctor’s prescribed instructions because frequently patients are placed in a removable cast boot.
Based on that, it is very important to only perform the exercises prescribed by your orthopaedic surgeon or physiotherapist. You should also wear your walking boot/cast and only apply as much weight-bearing as advised by your physiotherapist or surgeon.
Do your exercises on a frequent basis throughout the day. Multiple sessions of short duration are generally better than longer sessions done only once or twice.
Can You Still Walk on a Fractured Ankle?
It is best to avoid walking on any fracture limb until your fracture is assessed for stability. Until you seek medical opinion, crutches and non-weight-bearing (NWB) status is recommended.
How Long Does it Take to Heal a Fractured Ankle?
Everyone is different, but those who follow their doctor and physiotherapist instruction normally recover quicker!
All fractures normally take a minimum of 6-weeks for the bone to remould and become stable. Lower limb fractures that require full weight-bearing have extra load requirements, so 12-weeks is normally the minimum that an ankle fracture could be considered stable enough to jog for example. But, everyone's fracture is different and you really MUST follow your ankle surgeon specific advice.
The following are general guidelines that are subject to surgeon modification. Everyone is different so please only follow the guideline specifically recommended by your surgeon.
If in doubt, please check with your surgeon or physiotherapist.
Do You Need a Cast for a Fractured Ankle?
Whether you require a cast or not will be determined by your doctor on a case by case basis.
Can a Fractured Ankle Heal on its Own?
Ankle fractures are more likely to require surgical intervention and physiotherapy than not. Fracture stability is the primary issue. Then due to disuse and protection, every ankle becomes stiff and weak post-immobilisation or surgery. Your doctor and physiotherapist will commonly treat these injuries, so please seek their professional opinion to help you get back on your two feet as soon as possible.
Is a Broken Ankle an Emergency?
It is best to see a doctor as soon as possible. If you can see a deformity, foot blueness, numbness pins and needles or you are unable to walk on your ankle or move your toes, it is best to head top emergency as soon as possible for an assessment.
Helpful Products for Fractured Ankles
Traumatic Ankle Ligament Injuries
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