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Foot and ankle fractures are relatively common, especially with the older population, or late baby-boomers, maintaining exercise and activity.
A fracture of the foot and/or ankle can occur with lower grade mechanisms, including twisting of the foot/ankle, fall from low height, and something falling or running over the foot or ankle. Higher grade mechanisms include motor vehicle accidents, fall from a high height, or severe crush injuries. In general, the higher grade the mechanism, the more severe the injury and higher risk of permanent injury.
The ankle is made up of 3 bones: tibia, fibula, and talus. The ankle joint is described as having the shape of a “mortise and tenon,” or the talus bone sits in a tight bracket made by the tibia and fibula bones. Any fracture or disruption of this tight bracket can result in an ankle joint with chronic pain, ankle instability, or ankle deformity leading to post-traumatic arthritis.
Foot and ankle fractures are diagnosed with clinical examination and radiographic imaging, including x-rays, CT scans, and even MRI. In general, foot and ankle fractures that have not moved, may be treated with immobilization using bracing, casts, or boots. Patients may stand and walk with certain fractures and not others. Fractures of the foot and ankle that have moved or displaced, may need surgical management. This surgery may involve fixing the fracture with metal hardware and again, with immobilization. Surgery does not necessarily speed up the healing process, but it does position the fractured bones in place so they can heal properly.