Your bones are tough and serve many functions. Their complex structure allows them to be both strong and lightweight, and in addition to providing support, motion, and protection they also are responsible for producing blood cells and storing minerals.
Unfortunately, they aren’t indestructible, and can be broken and damaged from either a big blow (like a car accident) or from wearing down over time from repeated stress. Because they form the foundation of your body, bones in the feet and ankles are especially vulnerable.
Types of Lower Limb Bone Fractures
The ankle is the most common location for a lower limb fracture. There are three primary bones that come together at the ankle joint—the tibia (shinbone), fibula (calf bone), and talus (a small bone just above the heel bone), and an ankle fracture can occur in any or all of them. In general, more broken bones means a more serious and unstable fracture.
Broken ankles can occur as the result of a car accident, sports injury, trip, slip, or any incident that causes rolling or twisting. If you suffer a painful ankle injury, it’s important to get it treated and checked out right away. Often times, people mistake a broken ankle for a severe sprain (which can occur at the same time) and underestimate the extensiveness of the damage. Typical symptoms include severe pain, bruising, swelling, tenderness, and inability to put weight on the affected foot.
After confirming the break, we’ll work with you to develop the best treatment method. If the bones are still in good alignment—in other words, the fracture is “stable”—we may be able to simply immobilize the area with a cast or boot and wait for the bone to heal on its own. For more extensive or unstable fractures, surgery using internal fixation (like screws or plates) is usually required to remove any chips or fragments and reposition the bones.
Other Foot Fractures
Besides broken ankles, we also see and treat:
- Heel fractures. The heel bone can break as a result of a high-force impact, usually from an auto accident.
- Broken toes and forefoot fractures. These are common with certain sports and activities, as well as from accidentally dropping heavy objects.
- Midfoot fractures. Bones that support the arch are most likely to break and crack during twists, stumbles, and falls. They can also be mistaken for bad sprains, so don’t underestimate pain on the top of your foot or through your arch.
- Stress fractures. These are tiny, even microscopic cracks in the surface of bones that occur not as the result of a single injury, but from repetitive activity. They are common among avid runners and athletes—especially those who suddenly increase their activity levels—and are usually located in the second and third metatarsal bones toward the middle of your foot (although they can occur anywhere).
Fractures of all types can vary in type and severity, from open and compound (meaning the skin has been pierced by bone), to those that have shattered the bone into three or more pieces, to relatively stable and minor cracks.
Foot and Ankle Bone Fracture Treatment
Naturally, the treatment you receive will depend on the type, location, and severity of the injury. It may also depend on your personal goals and preferences—if there are multiple treatment options available, including casting, taping, surgery, or others, we’ll go over the pros and cons of each and arrive together at the best option for you.
For the tiniest fractures, you may be back up on your feet quite quickly. However, a more typical case will require 6 to 8 weeks of healing time. After the cast comes off, there will be a gradual return to full activity—some physical therapy will be required to restore strength and range of motion. We will help guide you through this process so that you protect your feet, avoid doing too much too soon, and recover as quickly and completely as possible.
The most important thing to remember is that any kind of foot or ankle fracture is a serious injury that needs immediate treatment. Continuing to walk on it will only lead to more pain, more serious damage, and a longer road to recovery. So, if you suffer a foot injury and think it might be a break, don’t take chances—get off your feet right away and give Premier Podiatry Group a call at (814) 472-2660 or fill out our online form to request your appointment!
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