A fractured or broken ankle is a partial or complete break of one or more bones in the ankle. A broken ankle is most commonly caused by physical activity like running or jumping, or by impact from falling or tripping. Fractured or broken bones are also commonly caused by car accidents.\nWhile the severity of your broken ankle may vary, this injury is highly treatable for most people.\nSymptoms of a Broken Ankle\nSigns of a broken ankle include:\n\n\n\nImmediate pain after the injury\nSwelling, bruising, and in some cases visible deformity\nDifficulty walking, bearing weight, or wearing shoes\nPain or tenderness with any movement of the ankle\n\n\n\nIf symptoms persist for more than two or three days, you should consult a doctor. Ankle fractures are often misinterpreted as an ankle sprain or strain.\nEvaluating Your Broken Ankle\nIf you believe your ankle is sprained, strained, or fractured, you should have it examined by a medical professional immediately. He or she will be able to determine the exact cause of swelling, bruising, and pain.\nDuring your appointment, your doctor will conduct a physical exam of your ankle and the surrounding area to pinpoint the injury and its severity. Your doctor may need to request imaging to see the injury more clearly or evaluate the severity. This may include an X-ray or MRI.\n\nDiagnosing a Broken Ankle\nCommon types of broken ankles include stable and unstable fractures:\n\n\n\nStable fractures are\u00a0 when the broken bones remain aligned with each other, barely out of place\nUnstable fractures occur when there are multiple breaks or the break is extended into the ankle joint, or has damaged the cartilage; unstable ankle fractures are often the result of a high-impact accident\n\n\n\nRELATED:\u00a0How to Wrap an Ankle Sprain\n\n\nTreatment for a Broken Ankle\nAfter diagnosing your fracture, your doctor will develop an individualized treatment plan specific to your injury and your needs. Stable breaks can typically be treated without surgery and will require you to keep weight off of the injury for a period of time.\nA stable ankle break often requires you to wear a boot or cast, or use crutches for a set amount of time. Your doctor also may recommend Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen to help relieve pain and physical therapy to help regain strength in your ankle.\nUnstable fractures typically require surgery to reset bones and ligaments of the broken ankle and may require pins, screws, or other implements to stabilize the area. Following surgery your doctor will prescribe a physical therapy plan to help regain the strength and stability. Whether healed surgically or not, your doctor may also recommend:\n\n\n\nPain management – NSAIDs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can help reduce pain and swelling of a broken ankle.\nPhysical therapy – Once it’s recommended by your physician, physical therapy keeps your ankle moving and helps you build up muscle support around the break.\nAnkle supports – Whether or not your ankle is treated surgically, your doctor may recommend wearing an ankle brace for up to a few months after the injury is healed.\n\n\n\nBroken Ankle Recovery Time\nRecovery time for a broken ankle is different for each injury and can be dependent on the level of activity you want to return to (e.g. daily life or elite sports), the severity of the ankle fracture, and the extent of the surgery. Most stable ankle fractures require you to refrain from putting weight on your foot with the use of crutches and a boot or a cast for four to six weeks before starting physical therapy.\nPhysical therapy will often progress after two months. At that point most patients are able to walk around, but are still not able to resume athletic activity. According to Stephen Conti, MD, foot and ankle surgeon at Orthopaedic Specialists \u2013 UPMC, recovery for a stable ankle fracture usually requires three to four months before a patient is able to return to low-impact athletic activities.\nFor unstable ankle fractures that require surgery, the timeline for recovery can be nine months to one year before a patient can return to any type of significant athletic activity.\nTo learn more about broken ankles, or to schedule an appointment with a UPMC Orthopaedic Care expert, visit UPMC.com\/Ortho.