Broken Ankles Diagnosis

Broken ankles are one of the most common types of bone injuries. A broken ankle occurs when one of the bones in the ankle joint becomes cracked or broken. A broken ankle can be either mild (sprain) or severe (compound fracture). A broken ankle can be identified by the patient’s inability to walk and the degree of pain being felt by the patient. It is often difficult for a doctor to differentiate a sprain from a fracture without an x-ray. A broken ankle diagnosis can be very important as it may help in the diagnosis of other diseases such as Osteoporosis and other bone related illnesses.

What causes a broken ankle?

Extreme force applied to the ankle joint may result in a broken ankle. A broken ankle may also be caused by tears in the ligament of the ankle. High risk factors for a broken ankle include but are not limited to players of contact sports (football, rugby, and hockey), sports that feature lots of jumping and or twisting (basketball, netball, tennis), increase in weight gain or increase in body mass and age. These factors increase the risk or heighten the possibility of sustaining a broken ankle.

How is a broken ankle diagnosed?

An x-ray offers the best possible diagnosis of a broken ankle. Whether or not an x-ray is performed is guided by factors such as age and the degree of pain being felt by the patient. If the individual is over 55 years old then an x-ray is usually performed. This is because in people over fifty, broken ankles could help to diagnose other illnesses such as Osteoporosis and other types of bone-related illnesses. If the patient cannot put any weight on the ankle at all without pain then an x-ray is performed. This is because there may be some amount of bone damage responsible for the extreme degree of pain being felt by the  individual.


The symptoms of a broken ankle tend to be fairly visible if not noticeable. The most obvious symptom is pain that usually results in the inability to walk. Swelling is another symptom. Swelling of the ankle indicates the possibility of soft tissue damage, as well as, the existence of blood around or within the joint. Blood in the joint is medically referred to as hemarthrosis. Bruising is another symptom. When the ankle is broken, usually, the area around the fracture becomes discolored (black and blue or purplish). Additionally, bone deformity will indicate a broken ankle. If the fracture is severe, there may be visible deformities in the ankle (exposed bones). There may also be numbness or the inability to move the foot or toes and this will indicate that the nerves or blood vessels in the foot have also been damaged.

Treatment tips

  • Stay off the injured foot
  • Elevate the foot to reduce swelling
  • Apply a cold  compress
  • Use Ibuprofen drugs like Excedrin, Advil and Motrin to suppress pain
  • Healing  normally takes 4-8 weeks

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