Ankle Fractures: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Our feet and ankles are integral to a fully active and mobile life. Rebound’s foot and ankle doctors have expertise in the complexities of foot and ankle conditions, including ankle fractures. Learn more about ankle fracture causes, symptoms and treatments from Rebound surgeon, Dr. C. Luke Rust.

What is an Ankle Fracture?

When one or more bones in the ankle are broken, it is referred to as an ankle fracture. An ankle fracture can be partial or complete and range in severity- from small portions of bone that have broken or a simple, single break to multiple fractures.

Ankle fractures commonly happen at the fibula or tibia, and are usually the result of the ankle twisting or jutting outward or inward.

What are Common Causes of Ankle Fractures?

“Ankle fractures can happen regardless of age, most often because of athletic activity or impact from a fall or accident,” says Dr. Rust. “However, they are more common among older adults, particularly those who are very active.”

Some common causes of ankle fractures include:

  • Twisting, rotating or rolling ankle
  • Impact or stress from tripping or falling
  • Rolling ankle, affecting ligaments that keep the ankle stable
  • Impact to ankle in a car accident

What Symptoms Point to an Ankle Fracture? 

“Typically, the first symptom of a broken ankle is immediate, severe pain,” says Dr. Rust. “Other symptoms may appear later on, or not at all.”

Common symptoms of ankle fracture:

  • Immediate, severe pain at the fracture site
  • Radiating pain
  • Swelling at the ankle or along the leg
  • Bruising at fracture site or along the leg
  • Tenderness
  • Difficulty walking or putting weight on the ankle/foot
  • Blisters at fracture site
  • In severe cases, bones that protrude through the skin

How are Ankle Fractures Treated?

“If you’re experiencing symptoms of a broken ankle, you should immediately see a physician,” says Dr. Rust. “Especially if there is severe pain. Sometimes severe pain can be a sign of an ankle sprain, and it’s important to distinguish the two.”

Elevating the ankle and applying ice are initial steps that can be taken to minimize pain, decrease swelling and help prevent additional damage. Common treatments for ankle fractures include:

  • Splinting/bracing
  • Casting or booting
  • Surgery

“The type of treatment we advise for ankle fractures depends on the severity of the fracture and where the fracture occurs,” says Dr. Rust. “When a patient suffers a minimal fracture, a cast or boot can help immobilize the ankle to help the fracture heal.”

When a fracture is severe or the patient has fractured the tibia and fibula, Rebound foot and ankle specialists often suggest surgery to realign the bone. Surgery typically involves the placement of screws and plates. Patients are advised to wear a cast or boot afterward, and avoid putting pressure on the foot and ankle by using crutches.

Seek physician consultation as quickly as possible if you suspect you have fractured your ankle.


Rebound Ankle Resources:

Ankle Team and Services

Foot and Ankle Stress Fractures

Foot and Ankle Arthritis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Trusted Ankle Resources:

American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society – Ankle Fracture

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons – Ankle Fractures (Broken Ankle)

Foot Health Facts – Ankle Fractures