If you have injured your ankle—particularly if it feels like a simple sprain—it is tempting to try to carry on walking on it. Which can mean you don’t get an X-ray for days or even weeks. Untreated, there is a high risk of developing infection, arthritis, or even foot deformities that may impair walking. If you do have an ankle fracture, and it leads to instability and ongoing mobility issues, you are likely to require surgery. Which is why getting the correct diagnosis is vital. At the Colorado Center of Orthopedic Excellence in Colorado Springs, Colorado, you’ll get help from orthopedic specialists who have dealt with every type of ankle fracture and excel at getting you back on your feet.
An ankle fracture is also known as a broken ankle. This means one or more bones that make up the ankle joint are broken. Ankle injuries are among the most common of the bone and joint injuries. The incidence of ankle fractures is estimated to be more than five million in the U.S. per year. Women are far more likely to have a fracture than men; in fact, one in two women over the age of 50 will have a fracture in their lifetime. This is because women’s bones, even at their best (age 25–30), are generally smaller and less dense than men’s bones. Not all ankle fractures are the same. The seriousness of an ankle fracture varies. Fractures can range from small hairline fractures to complex breaks involving several bones, some of which may pierce the skin.
ABOUT THE ANKLE JOINT
The ankle joint is not simply a single joint, but two joints. The portion that is usually meant when referring to the ankle is called the true ankle joint. It is the coming together of three bones: the fibula of the shin on the outside of the ankle, the tibia, also of the shin, on the inside of the ankle, and the talus bone underneath them. It is responsible for the up and down movement of the foot. The subtalar joint is the second part of the ankle. It is the coming together of the talus above and the calcaneus (heel bone) below. This joint allows the ankle to move from side to side. These joints, along with the ligaments that hold the bones together, absorb all the stress the ankle receives when walking, running, or jumping. They carry the weight of the body and help keep one balanced on uneven ground.
MOST COMMON TYPES OF ANKLE FRACTURES
- Fibula Only Fracture (lateral malleolus fracture): This is the most common type of ankle fracture. The base of the fibula (the lateral malleolus) forms the bony lump on the outside of the ankle. It can get broken if the ankle gets twisted forcefully, it is landed on badly, or there is an impact on the outer leg.
- Bimalleolar Ankle Fracture: The second most common type of ankle fracture is a break of both the fibula on the outside of the ankle and the base of the tibia (shin bone), on the inside of the ankle. Most bimalleolar ankle fractures are serious injuries, sometimes breaking the skin. These unstable fractures can also lead to serious ligament damage requiring surgery.
- Trimalleolar Fracture: These are the most severe of ankle fractures and have a poor prognosis. With these fractures, the back of the tibia is also broken off.
- Tibia Only Fracture (pilon fracture): The tibia is the second longest bone in the body, playing an important role in standing, moving, and keeping balance. The tibia can break in one place or shatter in several places at the ankle joint.
- Maisonneuve Fracture: This type of ankle fracture can be misdiagnosed as an ankle sprain (stretched ligaments) because an x-ray of the ankle shows no break in the bone.