If the fracture is stable (without damage to the ligament or the mortise joint), it can be treated with a leg cast or brace. Initially, a long leg cast may be applied, which can later be replaced by a short walking cast. It takes at least six weeks for a broken ankle to heal, and it may be several months before you can return to sports at your previous competitive level.
Your doctor will probably schedule additional X-rays while the bones heal, to make sure that changes or pressures on the ankle don't cause the bones to shift. If the ligaments are also torn, or if the fracture created a loose fragment of bone that could irritate the joint, surgery may be required to "fix" the bones together so they will heal properly. The surgeon may use a plate, metal or absorbable screws, staples, or tension bands to hold the bones in place.
Usually, there are few complications from a broken ankle, although there is a higher risk among diabetic patients and those who smoke. Afterwards, the surgeon will prescribe a program of rehabilitation and strengthening. Range of motion exercises are important, but keeping weight off the ankle is just as important. A child who breaks an ankle should be checked regularly for up to two years to make sure that growth proceeds properly, without deformity or uneven leg-length.
*Source: American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society® http://www.aofas.org
*This material was codeveloped by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons