An ankle fracture is a break in 1 or more ankle bones. These fractures may:
- Be partial (the bone is only partially cracked, not all the way through)
- Be complete (the bone is broken through and is in 2 parts)
- Occur on one or both sides of the ankle
You may be referred to an orthopedic (bone) doctor. Until that visit:
- You will need to keep your cast or splint on at all times and keep your foot raised as much as possible.
- DO NOT put any weight on your injured ankle or try to walk on it.
Without surgery, your ankle will be placed in a cast or splint for 4 to 8 weeks. The length of time you must wear a cast or splint depends on the type of fracture you have.
Your cast or splint may be changed more than once, as your swelling goes down. In most cases, you will not be allowed to bear weight on your injured ankle at first.
At some point, you will use a special walking boot as the healing progresses.
Some ankle fractures may require surgery when:
- The ends of the bone are out of line with each other (displaced).
- The fracture extends into the ankle joint (intra-articular fracture).
- Tendons or ligaments (tissues that hold muscles and bones together) are torn.
- Your provider thinks your bones may not heal properly without surgery.
- Your provider thinks that surgery can allow faster and more reliable healing.
- In children, the fracture involves the part of the ankle bone where bone is growing.
When surgery is needed, it may require metal pins, screws, or plates to hold the bones in place as the fracture heals. The hardware may be temporary or permanent.
Your provider will tell you when it is OK to place any weight on your injured ankle. Most of the time, this will be at least 6 to 10 weeks. Putting weight on your ankle too soon may mean the bones do not heal properly.
You may need to have your duties at work changed if your job requires walking, standing, or climbing stairs.
At a certain point, you will be switched to a weight-bearing cast or splint. This will allow you to start walking. When you start walking again:
- Your muscles will likely be weaker and smaller, and your foot will feel stiff.
- You will begin learning exercises to help you rebuild your strength.
- You may be referred to a physical therapist to help with this process.
You will need to have full strength in your calf muscle and full range of motion back in your ankle before returning to sports or work activities.