Foot and ankle injuries are occurring more frequently over the past few years. There has been a surprising increase in the number of foot and ankle injuries doctors are seeing. Though not as high as some other injuries, over 1 million people are seen each year due to ankle injuries.
The ankle is made up of two joints; one right on top of the other, and injuries or breaks can involve more than one bone in addition to injuring the ligaments around these bones.
Location of Fractures in Foot and Ankle Injuries
Broken Ankle (Fracture)
The uppermost ankle joint is comprised of three bones; the shinbone (tibia), lower leg bone (fibula), and the ankle bone (talus). Below this is another joint, connecting the talus to the heelbone (calcaneus).
Breaks can happen to any one of these three bones, usually caused by a fall, accident or other impact. The symptoms of a break are very similar to that of a sprain, including:
- Constant Severe Pain
- Inability to put weight on the foot
A broken ankle can also put the joint out of alignment and can cause damage to the surrounding ligaments, which a doctor will be able to assess from an X-ray and a physical examination.
Fracture of the Heel
The heel is not an easy bone to break, but when done, is usually caused by severe impact, possibly caused by a car accident or a fall that will often result in other bones being broken.
The most obvious symptoms are pain and problems putting weight on the foot. A doctor needs to be consulted to assess damage and ensure that the break heals correctly to avoid problems further down the road.
Stress Fractures of the Foot and Ankle
Stress fractures are caused by overuse, appearing as a small crack in the bone when muscles become fatigued and cannot absorb impact any longer. A fatigued muscle will transfer the force to the bone, creating the small cracks.
This type of fracture is also likely to occur in the case of patients with osteoporosis, which leaves bones weak and more susceptible to injury with everyday activities.
Most often, the bones affected by this type of injury are the metatarsals between the toes and the middle of the foot. However, they can also occur in the heel and the navicular which is a bone located in the middle of the top of the foot.
Athletes and adolescents whose bones have not fully hardened are most at risk of this type of injury, but it can also occur in military recruits who are moving from a fairly sedentary lifestyle to the physical requirements of their job.
Stress fractures can come from overuse or over exertion, particularly when athletes have been through a period of rest and begin to take on their normal physical routine at the pace they left off.
Toe and Forefoot Fractures
Fractures that occur in either the forefoot (metatarsals) or the toe bones (phalanges) are often quite painful but rarely require treatment. These injuries often heal themselves without much adjustment.
The types of fractures that afflict this part of the foot are usually either stress fractures or situations where an athlete or dancer takes a fall or twists the foot accidentally. In a situation where the ankle is twisted and causes injury, sometimes the tendon can be torn and pull a fragment of bone away from the foot. An injury like this will likely take longer to heal and require more attention.
Learn more about Foot and Ankle Injuries and Disorders on the Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Institute (OSMI) website.