Okay, so you just sprained your ankle and it’s as big as a pumpkin, turning ugly colors.

Can this STILL be only a sprain or might it be broken?

Should you sit home and ice the thing all day long and keep it propped up, keeping your fingers crossed that no bones are broken?

If this is how you feel, why not just go to the emergency room? No insurance?

Don’t let that stop you.

The last thing you want, especially if you’re an athlete, is a permanently bum ankle because it wasn’t treated in a timely fashion.

Signs Your Ankle Is Broken vs. Badly Sprained

“The bottom line is that the only way to truly tell whether your ankle is broken (if there is a fractured bone) vs. just badly sprained is to get an X-ray,” says John-Paul H. Rue, MD, orthopedic sports medicine surgeon with Orthopedics and Joint Replacement at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD.

“There are certain rules that providers use, called the Ottawa Rules, which basically mean that if you have tenderness over the bones around the ankle and cannot bear weight, you need an X-ray.

“Any type of crepitus, or crunching type of feeling at the bones, or deformity of the ankle requires an X-ray, as those are strongly suggestive of fracture.”

A badly swollen ankle isn’t necessarily broken, but a broken ankle will always be badly swollen.

Fearing a Fracture

People are afraid to hear, “It’s broken.” But what most people don’t know is that the break in an ankle takes a shorter time to heal than do badly sprained ligaments.

This is true even though the break may require a plaster cast.

A sprain in the absence of a break can take several months to fully heal.

Do not delay in seeking medical attention.

There is no such thing as a “wait and see” approach if a bone is broken.

Dr. Rue specializes in prevention and treatment of sports and exercise injuries. His primary focuses are knee, shoulder and elbow injuries including ACL and cartilage injuries, rotator cuff injuries and overuse tendonitis.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  



Top image: Shutterstock/Luis Santos