When it comes to knowing when a person can play football after a broken ankle, most orthopedists believe that an uncomplicated fracture will sideline the patient for about eight months.
First, the person’s ankle may be in a cast for at least six weeks. When the cast is removed, the person will need to relearn how to walk the right way. After this, it takes about six months for the ankle to completely heal. On top of this, the person will undergo rehabilitative therapy under the supervision of a physical therapist. This, recall, is for an uncomplicated fracture.
About a Broken Ankle
Broken ankles are fairly common because the ankle is a complex and somewhat delicate joint that involves many bones, ligaments and tendons. Any one of these structures can be damaged. An ankle fracture does not even have to be the result of a violent motion or a blow suffered when playing football, soccer, tennis or any other strenuous activity. Some people get them just from walking incorrectly. The severity of ankle fractures also differ. Stable fractures, where the bones remain in the same place, can be treated non-surgically. Fractures that are severe, unstable and knock the bones out of place may need surgery to fix.
The doctor can tell what kind of fracture a person has suffered through manipulating the ankle, ordering X-rays and considering the patient’s symptoms.
When the ankle is broken it will hurt to touch it. There is swelling and bruising and the skin around the ankle may be discolored. The joint can be obviously deformed. A person who suspects they’ve broken their ankle should not continue with their activity but immobilize the ankle, and follow the RICE procedure. This means rest, ice, compress and elevate the ankle.
A person who attempts to use their ankle when it’s broken will make the injury worse. That means that ligaments, tendons, nerves, blood vessels and muscles can be affected, and when the bone heals it may not be properly aligned. Trauma to the surfaces of the joint may lead to arthritis. Bleeding from the fracture may put the person at risk for a dangerous condition called compartment syndrome. This is an increase of pressure in one of the “compartments” that contain the muscles of the leg. In untreated cases, the muscle can be destroyed, and the leg may need to be amputated. In that case, the answer to when a person can play football after a broken ankle is “Never.”
The doctor may first put the broken ankle in a splint to ease the swelling, then put the ankle into a cast. The patient will then need to use crutches. If the fracture is unstable, the doctor may put the ankle back into position before putting on the cast or suggest surgery.
If the ankle is healing well after six weeks, the doctor refers the patient to a physical therapist to strengthen the joint and the leg. If the joint hasn’t responded to treatment, surgery may be needed to fix the broken bones in position.
In that case, the doctor puts the patient’s leg in a cast or a walking boot for at least another six weeks. After that, the patient starts rehabilitation with the physical therapist. For a complete diagnosis, we recommend contact our office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Aslmand.