Fractured Ankle: Is it Just a Sprain?
Among all impairments, a fractured ankle can be one of the worst. Depending on severity and type of injury, ankle fractures can range anywhere from slightly uncomfortable to brutally serious. Many individuals are likely to have experienced an ankle fracture within their lifetime, but may have dismissed the issue considering it as insignificant or minor. While this may be the case and no real damage is incurred to the ankle, making sure that a fracture isn’t serious is important for keeping the ankle functioning properly in the future.
What is an ankle fracture?
Numerous individuals easily dismiss ankle injuries as simply having a sprain. While cases of sprain or twisting of the tendons around the ankle are quite common, pain in the area isn’t always so simple. In fact, a large majority of cases in which sprain is suspected actually results in fracture when examined more closely. Minor fractures frequently heal without aid over time and many sufferers have no idea they even experienced the injury. More severe breakage is often obvious due to dislocation, extreme swelling, or unbearable pain. Minor and major fractures of the ankle may present themselves in a variety of ways:
- Chipping: When pieces of bone fragment break off.
- Dislocation: When one or more of the joints connecting ankle bones becomes dislodged or displaced.
- Breakage: When there is a clear severing of one or all of the ankle bones.
- Splintering: Often noted as a hairline fracture, when a small crack or fissure occurs to the ankle bone or bones.
What causes ankle fractures?
There are countless ways in which injury can occur to the ankle as it is one of the most widely used and stressed upon body parts. Most damage takes place from simple misstep, but some harm can come about due to more traumatic incidence. Below are the most common causes for fractured ankles:
- Athletics: Many injuries occur during sports due to harsh blows, twisting, or over extending the ankle.
- Auto Accidents: Ankles may be crushed, splintered, or dislocated when blunt trauma occurs during motor vehicle incidents.
- Falling: Many ankle fractures happen when a person misjudges distance to the ground, becomes unbalanced, or falls from an elevated position.
What can be done about ankle fracture?
As mentioned, many ankle injuries are relatively minor and require little care. However, more serious affliction should be dealt with in a timely manner. If left untreated, even the smallest fracture can lead to big problems such as arthritis, deformity, or handicap. Here is the best way to handle an ankle injury after it happens:
- Immediately take pressure off of and elevate the ankle.
- Apply a cold press. If you don’t have a cold pack, you can use a bag of frozen vegetables such as peas.
- Administer an over the counter oral pain reliever such as Ibuprofen or Tylenol.
- See your doctor immediately. If it is after office hours, go to an urgent care clinic or ER to determine whether or not the ankle needs further care.
Once seen by a physician, they will likely order X-rays or an MRI to properly diagnose whether or not fracture has occurred. If so, the doctor will often refer you to a specialist or orthopedic surgeon for surgery or a cast setting. It is critical that setting and surgery are done correctly. If not, bone re-growth can become abnormal and crippling may result. When done properly a fractured ankle can require lengthy time to heal, but when finished the joint may be fully operational again. In some rare cases, patients may be candidates for ankle fusion, but as this process is rarely reversible and limits mobility, most surgeons look to other options before performing such a procedure.