Falls on icy surfaces are a major cause of ankle sprains and fractures. It’s critical to seek prompt treatment to prevent further damage that can prolong recovery.
Woman falling on icy sidewalk

Icy conditions cause falls and broken ankles

JOPLIN, MO – With the recent cold snap and wintery weather, serious injuries from ice-related falls inevitably occur. The foot and ankle surgeon at Shoal Creek Foot & Ankle Center says falls on icy surfaces are a major cause of ankle sprains and fractures. It’s critical to seek prompt treatment to prevent further damage that can prolong recovery.

Shelly D. Sedberry, MS, DPM, AACFAS says the ankle joint is 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,” she says.

Sedberry is a member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) with offices in Joplin. She adds that in cases of 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,” She says. “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 at the same time, 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,” says Sedberry. “If you can’t see a foot and ankle surgeon or visit the emergency room right away, follow the RICE technique – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation – until medical care is available.”

According to Sedberry, 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—a 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.

Sedberry said newly designed surgical plates and screws allow repair of these injuries with less surgical trauma.

“With newer bone-fixation methods, there are smaller incisions to minimize tissue damage and bleeding and accelerate the healing process,” She says.

Sedberry recommends scheduling an appointment with her office if you have injured your ankle in any way.

“If you fall on an icy spot and hurt your ankle, the best advice is to seek medical attention immediately,” she says. “This aids in early diagnosis and proper treatment of the ankle injury and reduces the risk of further damage.”

For further information about ankle fractures and sprains or other foot and ankle problems, contact Shoal Creek Foot & Ankle Center by phone at (417) 622-0648 or by email at info@shoalcreekfac.com.

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