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For Many, Winter is Fall Season. Icy Conditions and Injured Ankles

Falls on ice can be particularly hard on ankles.

With the crazy winter weather that we see annually in Colorado, serious injuries from ice-related falls inevitably occur. Icy surfaces are a major cause of ankle sprains and fractures, and it’s critical to seek prompt treatment to prevent further damage that can prolong recovery.

The ankle joint is especially vulnerable to serious injury from hard falls on ice. Ice accelerates the fall and often causes more severe trauma because the foot can go in any direction after slipping. In less severe fractures and sprains, it’s possible to walk and mistakenly believe the injury doesn’t require medical treatment.

Never assume the ability to walk means your ankle isn’t broken or badly sprained. Putting weight on the injured joint can worsen the problem and lead to chronic instability, joint pain, and arthritis later in life.

Some people may fracture and sprain an ankle simultaneously, and a bad sprain can mask the fracture. It’s best to have an injured ankle evaluated as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and treatment. If you can’t see a foot and ankle specialist or visit the emergency room right away, follow the RICE technique – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation – until medical care is available.

Even though symptoms of ankle sprains and fractures are similar, fractures are associated with:

  • Pain at the Site of the Fracture that can Extend from the Foot to the Knee
  • Significant Swelling
  • Blisters over the Fracture Site
  • Bruising Soon after the Injury
  • Bone Protruding Through the Skin (Compound Fracture) Which Requires Immediate Attention

Most ankle fractures and some sprains are treated by immobilizing the joint in a cast or splint to foster union and healing. However, surgery may be needed to repair fractures with significant malalignment to unite bone fragments and realign them properly. The good news is that newly designed surgical plates and screws allow repairing these injuries with less surgical trauma. With newer bone-fixation methods, there are smaller incisions that minimize tissue damage and bleeding and accelerate the healing process.

When my patients injure their ankles in any way, I recommend that they seek medical attention immediately. This aids in early diagnosis and proper treatment of the ankle injury and reduces the risk of further damage.

Get to Know Tara Parks, DPM:

Tara Parks, DPM, is a podiatric foot and ankle specialist. As a member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS), she is trained to diagnose and treat patients with any foot and ankle pathology or condition, including:

  • Common Foot Disorders
  • Reconstructive Foot and Ankle Surgery
  • Foot and Ankle Trauma
  • Sports Medicine and Biomechanics
  • Diabetic Limb Salvage