The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Name That Fracture: Pott’s Fractures!

Posted by on Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

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Some fractures just get named after the bone that is broken. For example, someone may say, “I was trying to seem like a cool dad by dancing to a Katy Perry video with my eight year old daughter and somehow ended up on my butt with a nasty ankle fracture.” Or you could say, “I fractured my tibia at the party and that’s all you need to know.”

Other fractures, though, are so special that they get proper names. Today we’ll talk about one of those: Pott’s fractures.

That sounds exotic and glamorous. What is a Pott’s fracture? Your lower leg is made up of two bones, the fibula and tibia. They rest on top  of your ankle joint. At the bottom of each leg bone, there are bony protrusions. The one at the bottom of the fibula is called the lateral malleolus and is found on the outside of your leg. The one at the bottom of the tibia is called the medial malleolus and is found on the inside of your leg.

Of course, you could also simply say, “You know those bony bumps on the inside of your ankle and outside of your ankle? Yeah, those. That’s what we’re talking about.”

A Pott’s fracture, then, occurs when you do fracture a malleolus (we certainly hope you won’t do anything that would force me to use the plural and say “malleoli). See? They are exotic and glamorous, and worthy of a proper name, the kind of fracture that gets mentioned in medical-oriented mystery novels.

It seems like it would take something pretty extreme to fracture those, wouldn’t it? Yes, it would. Think of jumping really high, like to slam dunk a basketball or bounce on a trampoline, followed by a hard, bad landing where your foot rolls either inward or outward.

As you may guess from that image, Pott’s fractures are not isolated injuries; they usually occur with severe ankle sprains, ankle fractures, or even fractures of the tibia or fibula. Since most ankle sprains and injuries occur when you roll your ankle inward, Pott’s fractures to the lateral malleolus are more common than to the medial malleolus.

How do I know I have one? As noted above, you may be dealing with some other injuries, so it’s unlikely that you’ll find yourself saying, “You know, I think I have a Pott’s fracture.” More likely is: “I have a pretty badly sprained ankle.” You’ll have the same symptoms as a severe ankle sprain, such as pain around your ankle, inability to put weight on that ankle, swelling and bruising. Sometimes you may hear a cracking sound. A good indicator is if you touch the injured malleolus and notice that it felt tender and particularly painful. If you’re able to walk, you’ll feel more pain going uphill or walking on uneven ground. Sometimes you may feel tingling/pins and needles or numbness in the area. The best way to find out would be to see a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) for an exam and accurate diagnosis. If your ankle is in that much pain, you should see someone anyway, Pott’s or no Pott’s.

What’s the treatment? How do I get this thing healed? It depends on the severity of the injury. If everything stayed in place and it was a relatively neat fracture, your podiatrist most likely will immobilize the area to allow it to heal. This means a plaster cast for about six weeks in moderate cases, or a walking boot or ankle brace for milder fractures. Severe injuries, where the bones were displaced, will require surgery. All of these will require physical therapy to regain full mobility of the ankle.

Who’s Pott’s? I’m glad you asked! This injury is named for Percival Pott, and 18th century British physician who had this type of injury himself n 1756 and then described it in a 1769 paper. Of course, if you’re a francophile, you may want to call it a “Dupuytren fracture,” named for the early 19th century Guillaume Dupuytren who also described the injury.

It is to be hoped, of course, that you don’t have that kind of bad landing that would cause a Pott’s fracture. However, if you suspect you do have one or are having any other foot or ankle issue, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.

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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.