So, you’ve got a broken ankle, and you are not quite sure what that means or what the healing process looks like. There are a few specific types of injuries you could have sustained, so let’s start with the basics so you can move forward and begin healing.
First of all, a broken ankle is the same as a fracture according to medical terms. The location of a break relative to the ankle joint can be classified by one of the following three types of fractures: Weber A, Weber B, or Weber C.
Weber A happens below syndesmosis, which is a thick ligament that joins the fibula and tibia through connective tissue.
Weber B happens at the same level as syndesmosis.
Weber C happens above syndesmosis. Weber C fractures are generally unstable ones, and could potentially result in surgery.
Another ankle fracture that can occur is known as the “Pseudo-Jones” fracture. This fracture occurs at the base of the metatarsal bone, outside of the foot.
When it comes to the tibia and fibula, these bones can be fractured as well. A fibular fracture is treated more or less like an ankle sprain, while a tibial fracture tends to be more severe.
So, to determine what kind of fracture you have, you may be referred to get an MRI or x-ray. From there, seeing a physio after a broken ankle is the most important step for you to take in your recovery process. The rehabilitation stages will be something like the following:
First, the bone will be immobilized via a boot or ankle brace to ensure the bone does not shift within these critical first two weeks. Not only is the focus here on getting the bone in place, but your physio will help you focus on maintaining range of movement and strength as well.
Second, the focus will shift to increasing your range of ankle movement. This four to six-week period, depending on the severity of your fracture, will involve walking again (hopefully) with crutches, along with resistance band training and other therapy techniques like joint mobilization, dry needling, or massage. Your physiotherapist will test the stiffness of your ankle by checking your level of dorsiflexion, the level to which you can flex your foot toward your shin.
Third, you will shift your focus to strengthening. Being able to fully bear weight again will naturally increase muscle mass, but you will also complement the walking with exercises like heels raises, squats, and maybe even jogging.
Finally, it has been six to eight weeks since your initial injury, so it is time to return to your previous activities. You may go through a sport test with your physiotherapist who will refer you to hydrotherapy if necessary. This would be to improve fitness levels and get you back on track with your sport if further rehabilitation is needed.
No matter where you are in your healing process, is there no definitive timeline for everyone because no two injuries are the same. Follow these stages as a general guideline to prepare yourself for physio for a broken ankle, but always ask your healthcare professional to give you the green light before getting back to the turf and other normal activities.