Everyone stumbles over a curb or rough patch on the sidewalk now and then. Unfortunately, the ankle twisting that can occur with a simple misstep is a common cause of fractures.
But whether you’re strolling or running through life, there are some steps you can take to protect your ankle joints during your daily routine.
Sumit Dewanjee, MD, at FXRX Orthopaedics & Bracing in Tempe, Arizona, is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon and experienced trauma physician. Dr. Dewanjee and his team are well-known throughout the Phoenix area for expert, compassionate, patient-customized care.
Check these facts from the FXRX team about ankle fractures and how to avoid them.
Ankle anatomy basics
Your ankle joint includes three bones:
The tibia (shin) is one of the largest bones in the body, second only to the femur (thigh) in strength and length. It connects the knee to the ankle, eventually forming that little bump on the inner portion of your ankle (medial malleolus).
The fibula is the second, smaller bone in the lower leg. It connects with the shin just below the knee and at the ankle, forming the outer ankle bump (lateral malleolus). It offers stability to the lower leg and helps with the side-to-side movement of the ankle.
The talus is a small bone shaped like a saddle. It sits between the heel bone and the bones of the lower leg.
Although it’s the smallest bone in the ankle joint, the talus has several roles. It connects your leg to your foot, transferring your body weight across the joint and foot. The talus also helps move the foot up and down, maintain balance, and stabilize the arch of the foot.
The ends of bones within the joint are covered with cartilage, allowing smooth, frictionless movement. In addition, bands of strong connective tissue (ligaments) hold the ankle bones together, and tendons attach leg muscles to bones in the ankle and foot.
All components of the ankle joint are vulnerable to injuries that may sprain ligaments, rupture tendons, tear cartilage, or break (fracture) one or all three ankle bones.
Why ankles fracture
Most ankle fractures occur when you twist, turn, or roll the ankle awkwardly while walking, hiking, running, or engaged in a sport.
Crushing injuries sustained during a car accident or a hard blow to the ankle can also break ankle bones. Another common cause is landing wrong on your foot when jumping or falling from even a slight height.
A fracture can affect one or multiple ankle bones in several places. You may also experience a severe sprain, torn tendon, or joint dislocation along with the fracture.
Ankles are also prone to stress fractures. These microfractures (tiny cracks) in the bones develop over time and are related to repetitive force or overuse injuries during activities such as long-distance running.
Increasing your workout too quickly can also lead to stress fractures, such as doubling your walking or running distance or speed from one day to the next.
Avoiding ankle fractures
You can’t prevent all ankle fractures, but you can protect the joint by:
- Building bone strength with a healthy diet that includes calcium-rich foods
- Wearing shoes that fit your activity, such as hiking shoes for the trails
- Maintaining a healthy weight to decrease pressure on the ankles
- Selecting the right athletic shoes for your sport or exercise routine
- Alternating high-impact workouts with cycling or other low-impact activities
- Starting a new exercise routine or increasing your current workout slowly
- Improving your balance with specific exercises or activities like yoga or tai chi
- Replacing shoes when the treads are worn or every 300-400 miles if you’re a runner
- Continuing weight-bearing workouts to improve strength, flexibility, and bone health
Schedule a visit with Dr. Dewanjee at FXRX today for an evaluation and recommendations for fracture prevention, especially if you regularly twist or turn your ankles or notice other signs of instability. Call our office or request an appointment online.