An ankle fracture, or broken ankle, occurs when one of more of the bones that make up the ankle joint—the tibia, or shin bone; fibula, or small bone on the outside of the ankle; and talus, or boot bone, all of which are bound together by the joint capsule, a fibrous membrane that encases the joint’s architecture—are broken into pieces. In some cases, nearby ligaments may also be damaged.
The more bones that are broken as part of an ankle injury, the more unstable the ankle becomes. Patients with an ankle fracture in which only one bone is broken may be able to walk, while fractures with several broken bones may push the ankle out of place.
About 184 out of every 100,000 people suffer from an ankle fracture each year, and in recent decades, doctors have noticed an increase in the number and severity of broken ankles, which they attribute to an active older generation. Still, ankle fractures can affect people of all ages.
It takes at least six weeks for broken bones to heal, and sometimes longer for affected tendons and ligaments. Most people who have suffered an ankle fracture can return to normal daily activities (excluding sports) within three to four months, though it can take several months to walk without a limp or drive, and in some cases patients can still be recovering two years after the injury.