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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 might cause you to seek care in an emergency situation.

For the most part, your concern is the same as the doctor's: Is there a broken bone? It is often impossible to diagnose a fracture (broken bone) rather than a sprain, a dislocation, or tendon injury without X-rays of the ankle.

  • The ankle joint is made up of 3 bones coming together.
    • The tibia, which is 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). Together they form an arch that sits on top of the talus, one of the bones in the foot.
  • These 3 bones (tibia, fibula, and talus) make up the bony elements of the ankle joint.
  • 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 ligaments, which are fibers that hold these bones in place.

Ankle Fracture Causes

When you stress an ankle joint beyond the strength of its elements, you injure the joint.

  • If only the ligaments give way and tear, you have sprained the ankle.
  • If a bone gives way and breaks, you have an ankle fracture.
  • Fractures can occur with simultaneous tears of the ligaments. You can do this in several ways:
    • Rolling the ankle in or out
    • Twisting the ankle side to side
    • Flexing or extending the joint
    • Applying severe force to the joint by coming straight down on it as in jumping from a high level

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