Injuries of the Foot and Ankle

Foot and ankle trauma is any injury to the bones, joints and soft tissue (muscles, ligaments and tendons) that make up the ankle and foot. These injuries are often sudden and sometimes serious. They can occur if you’re involved in a fall or collision during any kind of activity. Sports and car accidents are common causes.

In injuries of the foot and ankle, the bones and joints can break (fracture) and tissues can stretch or tear. A fractured bone can be complete (broken into two or more pieces), incomplete, displaced (completely broken and misaligned) or open (piercing through the skin).

Types of foot and ankle trauma include:

  • Stress fractures. These are bone breaks caused by repeated stress from things like frequent strenuous sports or exercise or hard physical labor. One of the most common types of stress fractures are tarsal navicular stress fractures. These occur in the navicular bone of the tarsus (the bones that make up the middle and back parts of the foot).
  • Jones fractures. These are fractures of the bone on the outside of the foot (fifth metatarsal).
  • Heel bone fractures. Fractures of the heel bone (calcaneus).
  • Ankle fractures. These include talus fractures and pilon fractures.
  • Ankle sprains. An injury to the ankle ligaments.
  • Achilles tendon injuries. An injury to the Achilles tendon, which runs along the back of the ankle.
  • Lisfranc injury. An injury to the joints and/or ligaments of the midfoot.
  • Joint dislocation. An abnormal separation in a joint. This can happen in the ankle or foot.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Pain and swelling are the main symptoms of foot and ankle trauma. In some cases, the pain can cause your body to go into shock. Open fractures cause open wounds that may bleed.

Most traumatic injuries to the foot and ankle require immediate medical attention at an emergency room or urgent care clinic. Your doctor will complete a physical exam and order an X-ray, MRI or CT scan to assess the injury and plan treatment.

Mild foot and ankle trauma often heals well when the right treatment is sought without delay. Full healing of severe injuries is also possible with an individualized rehabilitation plan.

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Penn State Health includes the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, ranked as one of the best orthopedic providers in the country by U.S. News & World Report. This honor was earned because our doctors consistently deliver exceptional patient care and outcomes through their commitment to advanced treatments, translational research and provider training.

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