A fracture is a partial or complete break in a bone. Ankle fractures are common and happen when the ankle rolls inward or outward. In the ankle, that can occur from either a quick, one-time injury to the bone called an acute fracture, or from repeated stress to the bone over time, stress fracture.

An ankle fracture involves pain at the site of the fracture and can extend from the foot to the knee; there can be localized swelling or along the length of the leg; blisters may occur in the fractured area; bruising; decreased ability to walk; change in the appearance of the fractured ankle; bone may protrude from the skin in severe fractures—requiring urgent attention to prevent infection.

Stress fractures:

  • Are small cracks in bones that develop from overuse, happen over time, and frequently occur in the weight-bearing bones of the foot and lower leg.
  • Athletes who participate in high-impact sports such as tennis, track and field, gymnastics, dance, and basketball are at higher risk for these fractures, from the repeated stress of the foot striking the ground and the overtired muscles are no longer able to lessen the shock of the impacts.
  • People who do not exercise can also get stress fractures. If osteoporosis or other disease has weakened the bones, normal activities can result in a stress fracture. This is called bone insufficiency.

Acute fractures:

  • Are the result of a traumatic injury that causes a clean and immediate break in the bone.
  • Most acute fractures are emergencies.
  • The most common sites for foot fractures are the second and third metatarsal bones of the feet, the heel, the outer bone of the lower leg called the fibula, and the bone on the top of the midfoot.

Both acute and stress fractures are treated with casts to keep your bones in a fixed position and to remove stress on the involved leg, as well as the use of crutches.

Surgery may be needed to help the injury heal properly, by supporting the bones with the insertion of a metal plate and a type of fastener such as pins, screws to hold the foot and ankle together during the healing process.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.