Ankle Fracture Injuries
A broken ankle is a painful, often complex, and potentially disabling injury. It is essential to obtain expert medical care and if there is a potential legal claim for the injury, legal counsel familiar with the injury.
Ankle fractures can be caused in many ways, through impact, twisting, and crush injuries. We often see ankle fractures incurred through Impact in car and truck accidents or falls from a considerable height. Ankle crush injuries may occur when a heavy object rolls or falls over the ankle. Impact injuries also may result from a pedestrian being struck by a vehicle.
Ankle fractures comprise about nine percent of all fractures. They are the most common lower limb fractures in the United States, and are the most frequent fracture injuries seen in hospital emergency departments.
Symptoms may include pain, swelling, bruising, and an inability to walk on the injured leg. Complications may include a high ankle sprain, compartment syndrome, stiffness, disunion, and post-traumatic arthritis. A relatively simple non-displaced fracture may be treated with “RICE” (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). However, more complex ankle fractures are likely to require surgery.
There are many varieties of ankle fractures. Some involve hairline fractures that are overlooked as people assume it’s merely a sprain and do not get a proper medical examination with x-rays for a long time. This can lead to unfortunate complications.
The ankle joint includes three bones – the talus (top of foot), the tibia (shin bone) and the fibula (thin calf bone connecting to the outside of the ankle joint).
Trimalleolar fractures are the least common and most severe ankle injuries, as there are three breaks in the fibula and tibia. These usually result from a high-impact accident, but may occur in less dramatic occurrences. Trying to walk with a trimalleolar fracture would be very painful and might damage your ankle ligaments and tendons. The prognosis is often poor. Treatment of a trimalleolar fracture almost always involves surgery called “ORIF” (open reduction – internal fixation) with the insertion of rods, screws, and bone grafts. After surgery, there is extensive physical therapy. It often involves permanent impairment with a substantial effect on the quality of life.
For example, we represented a woman who was airline passenger walking through an airport concourse when she was struck by a passenger cart running silently and too fast. We obtained a video of the entire incident which showed her foot flopping from one side to the other as both her fibula and tibia were snapped in two and separated from the talus. It was touch-and-go whether she would require a rare ankle joint replacement surgery. While she was able to return to work, she had a permanent injury and had to give up her beloved activities of running with her dog and equestrian competitions.
Bimalleolar fractures occur when there are breaks in the bony bumps on both sides of the ankle, the lower parts of both the tibia and fibula, the lateral malleolus and the medial malleolus. These bones connect with the talus to form the ankle joint. The ankle is supported by ligaments on both sides that stabilize the foot under the leg and lock the fibula and tibia together. Bimalleolar fractures can affect these ligaments. Because this is an unstable fracture, ORIF surgery is usually required.
The more complex an ankle fracture, the more difficult the treatment and recovery. If bones are shattered into many pieces the surgical reconstruction can be especially tricky involving several screws and plates at peculiar angles. The worst ankle fractures may be comminuted (broken in more than one place), intra-articular (fracture extends into the joint), open (bone fracture breaks the skin), or some combination of those factors.
Sometimes a subtle ankle fracture may be misdiagnosed as a mere sprain. Proper diagnosis of ankle fractures may include musculoskeletal ultrasound, MRI, CT scans, and weight-bearing CT scan.
A serious, complex ankle fracture, or one in which treatment is inadequate, may cause a permanent limp, limitation of activities, and a degree of permanent impairment.
If you or a loved one have experienced a serious ankle fracture due to the negligence of someone else, call us at (404)253-7862 or complete the inquiry form on this website.
Johnson & Ward has been a leading personal injury and wrongful death specialty law firm in Atlanta since 1949.
Ken Shigley, senior counsel at Johnson & Ward, is a former president of the State Bar of Georgia (2011-12). He was the first Georgia lawyer to earn three board certifications from the National Board of Trial Advocacy (Civil Trial Advocacy, Civil Pretrial Advocacy, and Truck Accident Law). In 2019, he received the Traditions of Excellence Award for lifetime achievement. Mr. Shigley was the lead author of eleven editions of Georgia Law of Torts: Trial Preparation and Practice (Thomson Reuters, 2010-21). He graduated from Furman University and Emory University Law School.