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Difference Between a Broken Ankle and a Torn Ligament

If you are suffering from ankle pain, it can be hard to tell if you are suffering from a broken ankle or a torn ligament. Once you experience ankle pain, you should see a podiatrist to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment options, possibly ankle ligament reconstruction surgery.

What is a Broken Ankle?

If you can’t put weight on your foot and it is swollen or bruised, it might be a broken ankle, which is also known as an ankle fracture. This is when one of the three ankle bones break. One bone break isn’t a terrible injury, but multiple bone breaks could cause you to lose stability and if not treated right away, it will end up causing severe ligament damage.


Signs of a broken ankle include: Hearing a crack during the fracture, misshape of the bone, and pain over the ankle bone.

Treatment for an Ankle Fracture

When the fracture isn’t too severe, you might just need to rest, ice, elevate, take pain relievers and use crutches or a cast. A podiatrist can align the bones to help it heal. If the bones are unable to stay in place after the alignment, you will need surgery. Depending on the severity of the ankle fracture, the recovery time can range from 6 weeks to a few months. Once you do heal, you will most likely need to attend physical therapy or some form of rehabilitation to do stretching and balancing exercises.

Broken Ankle

Ankle Fracture Surgery

To repair a severe ankle fracture, ankle fracture surgery will be needed. This helps your ankle heal with a stable internal fixation screwed into the bone. This plate will help keep the portion of the bone aligned so it can heal properly. Be prepared to not place weight on the foot for 3 to 10 weeks, followed by wearing a boot or cast until fully healed. Physical therapy will also be a helpful addition.

What is an Ankle Sprain?

An ankle sprain is when there is damage to the ligaments in the ankle. Ligaments are stretchy bands that help keep bones in place and keep joints stable. When they are torn or stretched beyond their limit, the result is a painful injury.

Signs of a torn ligament include: a popping noise or silence when spraining your ankle, swelling and pain on the outside and soft part of the ankle.

Treatment for a Torn Ligament in the Ankle

Sometimes an ankle sprain can heal on its own after time, but some may need treatment. Most ankle sprains are first treated with anti-inflammatory medication, rest, ice, compression bandages and elevation. If the sprain is moderate, physical therapy might be added in. Severe ankle sprains will require surgery. Depending on the severity of the sprain, recovery can take just a few days, to a few weeks, to several months.

Ankle Ligament Reconstruction Surgery

Ankle ligament reconstruction surgery might be needed for severe ankle sprains. This will help restore the stability of the ankle. After 6 months of non-surgical treatment, if you are still experiencing pain, this treatment option might be best. At the Foot and Ankle Center of Arizona, we use the Brostrom Gould technique. During surgery, stitches and anchors are placed in the fibula bone to tighten the ankle ligaments. Dissolving stitches are used and a splint is applied following surgery. Once the swelling goes down, a cast is typically worn for 3 to 4 weeks. However, you won’t be able to put weight on your foot for about 4 to 6 weeks. Physical therapy will be needed throughout the recovery process and a full recovery could take 6 to 12 months.

The Foot and Ankle Center of Arizona

We offer cutting edge podiatry to help you find the relief you need with positive influence. We offer a number of different treatment options, all performed by a licensed, experienced and knowledgeable podiatrist. The entire staff at the Arizona Foot and Ankle Centers will provide you with only the finest foot and ankle care to get you back on your feet.



Dr. Kris Dinucci