The ankle joint is actually a composite of multiple players: the big bone of the lower leg, the tibia; a thin bone on the outside, the fibula; and a rounded, dome-shaped bone of the foot, the talus. The tricky aspect of the ankle joint is combining the attributes of stability, flexibility and strength. To function properly, the joint must be able to move in several directions, but only to a limited degree. The ankle joint has to withstand the normal forces of walking and running, provide power to the foot, flex fore and aft smoothly, and have some side-to-side movement, but not too much. A host of ligaments attach to the joint from every conceivable angle, and these connect to the muscles of the calf and foot. Injuries to this complicated mix-master of a joint are typically from car accidents, motorcycle accidents, falls off ladders and roofs, and forces that twist the foot against the long bones of the leg. None of us appreciate the wonderfulness of an intact ankle joint, until we lose it.
Causes of Broken Ankle and Other Ankle Injuries
In car accidents, the most common cause of injury is a sudden frontal stop, wherein the foot is jammed against the firewall to create a compression injury. The injury is nearly identical to that of a fall from a ladder, since the energy transfer forces are about the same. Injuries sustained while running, playing football, basketball or tennis, tend to be twisting injuries, which result in disruption of the ligaments where they attach to the bones, more commonly on the outside of the ankle. If the force is sufficient, fractures occur in the same place, commonly with movement of the lower tip of the fibula to the outside, with immense swelling and pain. A similar fracture may occur from the compression forces of a car accident or fall, but often include a fracture of the heel bone (calcaneus), the talus, or the long bones of the foot.
Recovery from Ankle Injuries
It is commonly true that disruption of the tendons is more difficult to fix than any fractures, since any looseness or laxity of the joint invariably means a long-term disability. Being able to walk normally is a precious gift. Ligament disruptions nearly always require surgery to put things back together, with the use of screws, metal plates or bands to reattach ligaments to bones, or, where fractures have caused a shift in the relative position of the bones, to hold the bone fragments in a functional position until they can heal, which often requires six weeks or more. Long leg casts are used first, and later, shorter versions. Then soft casts, such as those with velcro and plastic, are commonly used, during the course of recovery. The patient invariably becomes an expert with crutches. Extensive physical therapy is usually necessary to recover all or most of the normal joint function.
Broken Ankle Injuries Complications and Long-Term Effects
Diagnostic problems in the emergency room include overlooked fractures, which may require a CAT (Computerized Axial Tomography) scan to detect. Determining the amount of damage to the joint is often very difficult right after the injury, since the swelling is typically severe, and testing the joint against various stresses is prohibited by this pain intolerance. Sometimes an accurate assessment of the injury is delayed by days or weeks, due to the distortion or tenderness of the joint. If orthopedic consultation is delayed excessively, sometimes healing changes that occur cannot be corrected. A permanent limp or need for a cane or crutches is a life-altering condition, since employment is usually disrupted significantly. Putting things back to normal can be an arduous task for the physicians and therapists, and learning to walk normally a daunting task for the patient.
Contact a Lawyer About Your Broken Ankle Injury
If you have suffered a broken ankle as a result of a car accident, or negligence of others, Parker Scheer recommends that you consult with a personal injury lawyer and evaluate your case. For your free confidential case review click here and receive a response from one of our attorneys within hours. If you prefer, you can also telephone our offices in Boston seven days a week at toll free.
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