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Broken Ankle
(Ankle Fracture)

Broken Ankle (Ankle Fracture) Overview

Ankle injuries are among the most common of the bone and joint injuries. Often, the degree of pain, the inability to walk, or concern that a bone may be broken is what usually causes people to seek care for an ankle injury. The main concern is whether there is a broken bone. Frequently it is difficult to distinguish a fracture (broken bone) over a sprain, dislocation, or tendon injury without X-rays of the ankle.

  • The ankle joint is made up of three bones that fit anatomically (articulate) together, the tibia, fibula, and talus (some medical experts also include the calcaneus bone and label the joint as the subtalar joint and consider it part of the ankle):
    • The tibia, the main bone of the lower leg, makes up the medial, or inside, anklebone.
    • The fibula is a smaller bone that parallels the tibia in the lower leg and makes up the lateral, or outside, anklebone.
    • The far ends of both the tibia and fibula are known as the malleoli (singular is malleolus). These malleoli are the lumps of bone that you can see and feel on the inside and outside of the ankle. Together they form an arch or mortise (a recess) that sits on top of the talus, one of the bones in the foot.
  • A fibrous membrane called the joint capsule, lined with a smoother layer called the synovium, encases the joint architecture. The joint capsule contains the synovial fluid produced by the synovium. The synovial fluid allows for smooth movement of the joint surfaces.
  • The ankle joint is stabilized by several groups of ligaments, which are fibers that hold these bones in place. They are the capsule ligament, deltoid ligament, the anterior and posterior talofibular ligaments, and the calcaneofibular ligament. Some of these ligaments may be disrupted if the ankle is fractured.

Broken Ankle Causes

When a person stresses the ankle joint beyond the strength of its elements, the joint becomes injured.

  • If only the ligaments give way and tear, the damage is a sprained ankle.
  • If the ligaments that stabilize the joint are completely disrupted, the bones can come apart and the ankle can become dislocated.
  • If a bone gives way and breaks, the damage is an ankle fracture.
  • Fractures can occur with simultaneous tears of the ligaments. This can happen in several ways:
    • Rolling the ankle in or out
    • Twisting the ankle side to side
    • Extreme flexing or extending of the joint
    • Severe force applied to the joint by coming straight down on it as in jumping from a high level

Ankle Pictures

Illustration of the Ankle  Bones and Foot Bones
Illustration of the Ankle and Foot Bones

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/16/2013

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