Ankle fractures aren’t just painful injuries. Instead, they can also be dangerous, particularly for seniors. With aging bones and diminished mobility, a fractured ankle can escalate into a life-threatening situation.

Due to muscle weakness and balance issues, seniors are more vulnerable to falls. Therefore, they are more prone to serious foot problems.

This article examines the various risks associated with the condition among seniors and emphasizes the importance of prevention and treatment.

What Does a Fractured Ankle Look Like?

It is a break or crack in one or more bones that make up the ankle joint. These bones include the tibia (shinbone), fibula (bone of the lower leg), and talus (it sits atop the heel bone).

These fractures can differ in severity, from minor cracks to severe breaks that displace the bones. They often occur due to trauma, such as a fall, twist, or direct impact on the ankle.

Seniors, in particular, are at increased risk of these fractures due to age-related changes in bone density and decreased mobility.

Types of Ankle Fractures

Medical professionals classify these fractures into different types based on the injury location and severity. The most common types include:

Lateral Malleolus Fracture

This type of fracture involves the fibula, the bone on the outer side of the ankle. It typically happens when the ankle is twisted or rolled.

Medial Malleolus Fracture

This fracture involves the tibia, the bone on the inner side of the ankle. It usually occurs due to a direct impact or force applied to the inner ankle.

Bimalleolar Fracture

This ankle sprain or fracture is more severe and involves both the lateral and medial malleoli. It often results from a high-energy impact or significant trauma to the ankle.

Trimalleolar Fracture

It is the most severe type of ankle fracture. This serious condition involves fractures of the lateral and medial malleoli and the posterior lip of the tibia. Hence, this fracture requires immediate medical attention and surgical intervention to stabilize the ankle joint.

The Signs of a Fractured Ankle

Recognizing the signs of a fractured ankle is crucial for prompt diagnosis and treatment. Common symptoms include:

Pain

Persistent pain, especially with weight-bearing or movement, is a hallmark symptom of this condition. The pain may be sharp or throbbing and can worsen with activity.

Swelling

These fractures often cause significant swelling around the injured area. Swelling may develop rapidly following the injury, and bruising or discoloration may accompany it.

Deformity

In severe cases, a fractured ankle may appear deformed or misaligned. In this case, it requires immediate medical attention or ankle fracture surgery.

Difficulty Walking

An ankle fracture can impair mobility, making carrying weight on the affected leg challenging or impossible. Seniors may experience difficulty walking or standing due to pain and instability in the ankle joint.

Tenderness to Touch

The injured area may be tender to the touch, particularly over the fracture site. Pressing or palpating the ankle may elicit pain and discomfort.

What Research Says

Researchers presented a study in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery. It suggests that ankle fractures can essentially be a death sentence for elderly individuals.

They opted to investigate whether “low energy” open fractures affect the life expectancy of senior citizens. “Low energy” open fractures were classified as compound ankle fractures resulting from every day, low-impact activities.

These include tripping on a step, falling off a curb, and bringing your weight down on an awkwardly positioned ankle. It differs from high-impact fractures, which are more common during car accidents or athletic activity.

Recovery Speed After Ankle Bone Fracture in Seniors

Twenty-seven percent of patients with an open ankle fracture died within one to two months after the incident. People think hip fractures are death sentences for seniors. However, only 10 percent of seniors who suffer a hip fracture die within 30 days.

Most had other health issues that medical professionals need to control. Eighty-two percent had hypertension, 73 percent had diabetes, and 50 percent had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Moreover, nearly half had heart disease, and 25 percent had congestive heart failure.

Researchers believe the reason why ankle sprain and fracture lead to death in so many cases is two-fold. First, because open fractures are very severe, doctors believe it takes too heavy a burden on older people. Hence, it eventually becomes too much to overcome.

Secondly, researchers say health issues often complicate the ankle’s healing process. Thus, patients sometimes never leave the hospital bed after an ankle fracture.

Empower Seniors to Take Control of Ankle Health

Seniors must take an active role in their ankle health. They must adhere to ankle sprain or fracture treatment plans and attend regular follow-up appointments. They must also incorporate preventive measures into their daily routines.

Additionally, rehabilitation plays a vital role in recovering seniors with ankle fractures. Physical therapy programs focus on restoring strength, flexibility, and balance to reduce the risk of future falls and fractures.

By staying proactive, seniors can reduce the likelihood of fractures and maintain their independence.

Partner with Foot & Ankle Centers for Expert Care

These fractures pose significant risks for seniors, impacting their health and independence.

Foot & Ankle Centers are experts in providing care tailored to seniors with ankle fractures’ unique needs. We are the ideal partners in this journey. From diagnosis to rehabilitation, our comprehensive services aim to restore mobility and enhance overall quality of life.

Don’t let an ankle fracture become a death sentence. Partner with us for exceptional care and support, and feel confident in the quality of care you will receive.