What is a foot or ankle fracture?

A foot fracture occurs when one of the 26 bones in the foot has been broken. Most foot fractures occur in the toes or forefront (metatarsals).

An ankle fracture occurs when one of the 3 bones in the ankle cracks or breaks.

A stress fracture is a more minor form of a fracture and is a small crack in a bone in the foot or severe bruising in the foot.

What is a foot or ankle dislocation?

A foot or ankle dislocation occurs when the bones in the joints of the ankle or foot separate from each other.

Causes of foot or ankle fractures or dislocations

A foot or ankle fracture or dislocation can be caused by a variety of factors. Some of these include:

  • An acute injury caused by direct force like a fall, car accident or a sporting accident
  • Overuse or repeated movements that wear down the musculoskeletal tissues

Risk factors for foot or ankle fractures and dislocations

Risk factors for fractures and dislocations are:

  • Foot or ankle fractures and dislocations are most common in high impact or extreme sports such as downhill skiing, football, basketball, soccer or rugby
  • Jobs and sports (such as running) that require repetitive movements lead to a higher risk for stress fractures

Symptoms of foot or ankle fractures or dislocations

The most obvious symptoms of a foot or ankle fracture or dislocation are severe pain, swelling and bruising.

Other symptoms of foot or ankle fractures and dislocations include:

  • Misaligned foot or ankle
  • Numbness to the impacted area
  • Loss of use of the injured area
  • Muscle spasms around the injured area

Not all fractures or dislocations will cause the person to lose mobility. Contact your orthopedic physician if you suspect you have a fracture or dislocation or you have several of the above symptoms. The longer you wait to see a physician, the longer the healing process will be.

Stress fractures are more challenging to self-diagnose because they can be caused by minor injuries and can be mistaken as a sprain or a strain .  If the pain does not subside in 3 – 5 days after a minor injury, schedule a consult with your physician.

Visit the emergency room immediately if the injury is severe and multiple body parts have been impacted.

Diagnosis of foot or ankle fractures or dislocations

A foot or ankle fracture or dislocation is diagnosed under the care of your orthopedic or sports medicine provider.

Typically, the physician will order an x-ray to identify the fracture. In more severe cases, your orthopedic physician will order an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) scan.

Treatment for foot or ankle fractures or dislocations

After suffering a fracture or dislocation apply pressure to the impacted foot or ankle, splint the area, and call for a medical appointment as soon as possible.

Mercy Health offers the following medical and surgical treatments for fractures and dislocations:

  • Surgical realignment
  • Splint/Brace
  • Cast

Recovery from foot or ankle fractures or dislocations

Recovering from a fractured or dislocated foot or ankle can take anywhere from 6 weeks to more than a year depending on the severity of the injury. Staying off the ankle and rest are crucial in allowing you to heal as quickly as possible.

It is important to follow your physician’s recommendations for recovery including follow up visits and x-rays of the injured area.

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