Foot & Ankle

Broken Ankle

When your ankle break occurs, any one of the three bones that make up the ankle joint can be involved, as well as an injury to the surrounding ligaments. The three bones of the ankle joint are:

  • Tibia – Shinbone
  • Fibula – The other bone of the lower leg
  • Talus – Anklebone


Symptoms of a broken ankle include:

  • Immediate and severe pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tender to the touch
  • Inability to put any weight on the injured foot
  • Deformity, particularly if there is a dislocation in addition to the fracture

A broken ankle may also involve damage to the surrounding ligaments.


Your physician will order X-rays to find the exact location of the break. Sometimes, a CT (computed tomography) scan or bone scan are also needed.


If the fracture is stable (without damage to the ligament or the mortise joint), it can be treated with a leg cast or brace. Initially, a long leg cast may be applied and later be replaced by a short walking cast. It takes at least six weeks for a broken ankle to heal. It may be several months before you can return to sports at your previous competitive level. Your physician will probably schedule additional X-rays while the bones heal to make sure that changes or pressures on the ankle don't cause the bones to shift.

If the ligaments are also torn or if the fracture created a loose fragment of bone that could irritate the joint, surgery may be required to "fix" the bones together so they will heal properly. The surgeon may use a plate, metal or absorbable screws, staples or tension bands, to hold the bones in place. There are typically few complications, although there is a higher risk among diabetic patients and those who smoke. After surgery, your surgeon will prescribe a program of rehabilitation and strengthening. It is important to keep weight off the ankle and perform range of motion exercises.

A child who breaks an ankle should be checked regularly for up to two years to make sure that growth proceeds properly, without deformity or uneven leg length.

Reproduced with permission Fischer S., (interim ed): Your Orthopaedic Connection. Rosemont, Illinois. Copyright American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.