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Symptoms and Signs of Broken Ankle (Fracture)

Doctor's Notes on Broken Ankle
(Ankle Fracture)

A fractures or broken ankle is a break in one of the bones that make up the ankle joint. A broken ankle is a common injury that is most often caused by a traumatic injury involving rolling of the ankle either inward or outward. A broken ankle can sometimes occur along with a sprain of the ankle, which is damage to the ligaments of the ankle joint.

Symptoms and signs of a broken ankle include pain that may be severe, swelling, bruising or blistering, inability to walk or bear weight on the ankle, and deformity or change in appearance of the ankle. Other possible associated symptoms and signs can include bone protruding through the skin and scrapes, cuts, or abrasions on the surface of the skin.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/20/2019

Broken Ankle
(Ankle Fracture) Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of ankle injuries and ankle fractures tend to be obvious.

  • Pain is the most common complaint.
    • Sometimes the pain will not come from the exact area of the fracture.
    • The person may experience associated foot fractures (especially on the side of the small toe) or knee that also cause pain similar to ankle pain.
    • It is usually pain in the ankle that stops individuals from walking.
  • Swelling frequently occurs around the ankle.
    • Swelling suggests either soft tissue damage with possible blood around the joint (hemarthrosis) or fluid within the joint itself, most likely blood.
  • A person may see bruising around the ankle joint, although not immediately. The bruising can track down toward the sole of the foot or toward the toes.
  • In severe fractures, there may be obvious deformities of bones around the ankle.
    • Skin may be stretched over an underlying broken bone.
    • Bone may be exposed.
  • If the ankle joint is dislocated, the foot and leg bones will be misaligned and will appear deformed.
  • If people injure nerves or blood vessels that supply the foot, there may be more pain along with pale skin in the foot, numbness, or an inability to move the foot or toes.

Broken Ankle
(Ankle Fracture) 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.
  • Fractured ankles 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

Broken Bones Types, Symptoms, and Treatment Slideshow

Broken Bones Types, Symptoms, and Treatment Slideshow

Next to teeth, bones are the hardest structures in the human body. While we perceive them as rigid, bones do "give" a little when physically stressed. Bones can break if stressed too much. In some cases, they may crack instead of breaking all the way through. With some types of bone breaks, a bone actually shatters. Some diseases like osteoporosis or cancer make bones more fragile so they are more prone to injuries like fractures. Trauma to bones can even cause bone bruises.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.