As with many orthopaedic injuries, broken bones and fractures are more common with the inclement weather, snow and ice.
A broken ankle is also known as an ankle fracture. This means that one or more of the bones that make up the ankle joint are separated into pieces. There may be ligaments damaged as well.
Broken ankles affect all ages, but during the past 30 to 40 years doctors have noted an increase in the number and severity of broken ankles, due in part to an active, older population of baby boomers.
Every ankle injury should be evaluated by a physician. Common complaints for a broken ankle include immediate and severe pain, swelling, bruising, tender to touch, unable to put any weight on the injured foot, or the feeling of deformity ("out of place"), particularly if the ankle joint is dislocated.
A fractured ankle can range from a simple break in one bone to several fractures. Since there is such a wide range of injuries, there is also a wide range of how people heal after their injury.
Recent studies suggest that almost two out of every three ankle fractures can be treated without surgery, simply by using a boot or cast to stabilize and keep the ankle straight until healing occurs.
In the majority of patients, the leg can be splinted in the emergency department and the swelling monitored, with care provided in an outpatient setting. When your injury involves multiple breaks, you may need one or more surgeries, possibly requiring your surgeon to use plates, screws and/or pins to obtain the desired outcome.
Prevention of these potentially devastating injuries is a primary goal of orthopaedic surgeons, with special attention focused on weight management and smoking cessation. An ankle injury may be the result of too much stress or weight being put on the joint. Research has also shown that smokers (versus nonsmokers) have slower bone cell production, faster bone loss, longer healing time after a fracture or surgical incision and less successful ligament and joint surgery.
Additional ways to prevent ankle injuries include wearing appropriately fitted and suitable shoes, staying aware of environmental and weather-related factors, and carefully managing hypertension and glucose control.
Basic precautions and care, along with continued emphasis on overall improvement in health management will hopefully result in a safe winter season.
Dr. J. Steven Shockey, is an orthopaedic surgeon with Commonwealth Orthopaedic Surgeons, who practices at Central Baptist Hospital.