There are a few clues that may help you decide on a sprain vs. fracture when you injure your ankle. Pain severity may not help, because sprains, strains, and fractures can all hurt quite badly. However, soft tissue damage should start feeling better in a day or two, while a broken bone will still hurt or get worse.
If it’s a break, your ankle may look out of position, or part of a bone could pierce the skin. If this is the case, seek medical help immediately. The Ottawa Ankle Rules say if there is tenderness when you press on either the tibia or fibula a couple of inches from the bottom, the bone may be broken. The other rule says you won’t be able to bear weight on the leg, even to limp around. Although these rules are a good guideline, they don’t necessarily apply to high end athletes or people with a high pain tolerance. We’ve actually had elite athletes walk in on an ankle fracture, with barely a limp!
Any of these symptoms mean you need an X-ray to determine if the ankle is fractured. Numbness in the foot, a feeling of weakness, or blue or cold skin also could be signs of a serious issue, so don’t delay getting help. Call (303) 423-2520 to make an appointment at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center in Wheat Ridge, Golden, Evergreen, or Granby, CO, right away.
By Matthew H. Paden, DPM