The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Walking Away From It: Car Accidents and Ankle Injuries

Posted by on Thursday, August 1st, 2013

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Swedish research shows that frontal crashes account for approximately 76% of all the foot and ankle injuries in car collisions — more so than side impacts or roll-overs. Backseat passengers over 60 years of age are slightly more susceptible to ankle injuries in car accidents, although it can feasibly happen to anyone. Here we’ll cover some of the most common ankle traumas our NYC podiatric center sees.

Broken Ankle: Lateral or Medial Malleolus Fracture

A broken ankle, or “fractured” ankle as it’s sometimes called, may not stop you from walking entirely, but it could force your ankle out of alignment and cause tremendous pain. You will not be able to bear any weight on the foot or ankle for at least six weeks. In the meantime, you will need a cast or boot and crutches. Ligament damage is common in these type of accidents as well. Screws, plates and rods may be required to set the ankle back into the proper position, so you heal well.

Broken Ankle: Fractured Talus

The talus (pronounced “TAY-liss”) is another part of the ankle often injured in car accidents. This turtle-shaped bone is especially important for navigating uneven ground. In addition to crashes, we also see this type of injury in snowboarders and people who have fallen from a height. Ice, a well-padded splint and elevation are necessary to treat the acute symptoms. From there, you’ll need to keep weight off it for at least three months. In some cases, steel plates, rods and screws are needed to hold the bone together while it heals. Cartilage damage and arthritis are possible byproducts of this injury. The doctor will also need to monitor to see that blood supply returns to the bone; otherwise, you may have a condition known as avascular necrosis or osteonecrosis — which may cause the bone to collapse.

Broken Ankle: Distal Tibia or Tibula Fracture

Treating distal tibia fractures is a complicated process with a high complication rate. One study of 101 fracture cases found that the best method for repairing the damage was traditional Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF). During this two-part procedure, the broken bone is reduced or put back into place and screws, plates, rods or pins are used to hold everything together.

While possible complications include infection, bleeding, blood clots and poor reaction to general anesthesia, it is still considered to be preferable to external fixation, which should only be used if the patient has significant skin injuries. Patients may remain in the hospital for up to a week following tibia surgery. Physical rehabilitation to strengthen muscle and improve range of motion will be part of the healing process.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.