Broken Ankle

A look at the bones involved in a broken ankle: the tibia, the fibula, the growth plate, and the talus.What is a broken ankle?

The tibia and fibula are the two long bones in the leg. Together with a bone called the talus, they make up the ankle joint. Broken ankles are also known as ankle fractures. Ankle fractures in children usually involve the tibia, the fibula or both of these bones.

Broken ankles in older adolescents often involve the growth plate, a soft area of cartilage at the end of children’s shin bones. As children mature, their growth plates are replaced by solid bone.

What causes a broken ankle?

Broken ankles are usually the result of a fall or hard hit to the leg that puts too much force on the bone. Many ankle fractures occur when a child’s leg is planted in place and suddenly twisted, such as in football, hockey, and basketball. Ankle fractures can also be caused by falls from trampolines, jungle gyms, or swings or happen while ice skating, skiing, or skateboarding.

What are the symptoms of a broken ankle?

The signs and symptoms of an ankle fracture include:

  • Pain or swelling in the ankle
  • Obvious deformity
  • Difficulty using or moving the ankle
  • Warmth, bruising or redness 

Seek medical care immediately if your child displays any of symptoms of a fracture. Do not move your child and call 911 immediately if you can see the bone poking out through the skin.

There are two types of ankle fractures: displaced, and non-displaced.How is a broken ankle treated?

A clinician will first look at where the fracture is and what shape it is. This is called the fracture pattern, and it helps determine the best way to treat the fracture. Clinicians may need to use a special X-ray called a CT scan to get the best image of the fracture pattern.

Your child may need to have the bones set to put them in the proper position to heal. This is called a reduction, and it is usually done right away in an emergency department.

Sometimes, the two parts of the fractured bone move away from each other. This is called a displaced fracture. Surgery may be necessary to put the bones back in a good position so they can heal correctly.