Ankle Fractures, Minor

Your child has been diagnosed with a minor break (fracture) of the ankle. The bone involved is the one on the outside of the ankle, called the fibula. Your child has one of the following:

  • a break in the growth centre of the fibula (a Salter-Harris I or II fracture)
  • a chip of bone removed from the tip of the fibula

None of these types of breaks are serious and they heal very well. Your child does not need a full cast or a visit to an orthopaedic surgeon.

Ankle Fractures
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A minor fracture of the ankle usually involves the fibula. Two types of fractures are most common in children. One involves a break in the growth centre of the fibula (Salter-Harris I or II fracture). The other involves a chip of bone on the tip of the fibula.

Your child needs crutches and support for the injured ankle

Doctors in the emergency room will give your child the following:

  • crutches
  • a brace or a splint to support the ankle while it is healing

For the first 5 days after the injury, your child should not walk on the injured ankle. Instead, your child should use the crutches and keep the injured ankle supported.

After the first 5 days, your child can use the ankle support and crutches as needed. Pain should be the guide:

  • If it hurts to put weight on the injured ankle, your child should use the ankle support and/or crutches.
  • If an activity hurts, your child should stop doing that activity and try it again a few days later.

Your child will probably not need any ankle support after 3 weeks

Most children do not need the ankle support or crutches at all after 3 weeks. This does not mean that your child has to use these supports for the full 3 weeks. Your child should use them only if they make him more comfortable. Some children stop using them after 1 week, while others use them on and off for 3 or 4 weeks.

It is normal to have pain and swelling once in a while for the first 3 months. But most children are doing all the activities they were doing before, including sports, by 3 months after the injury.

When to see a doctor

It is a good idea for your child to see your family doctor or paediatrician 1 week after coming to the emergency department. The doctor will review how your child's ankle is healing. The doctor can also take off the ankle support, or give you advice about how often your child needs to wear it.

If you feel your child's ankle is getting worse instead of better, or if you are worried about how your child's ankle is healing, please take your child to your family doctor or the emergency department as soon as possible.

If you go to your family doctor, please call your doctor to make the appointment. Bring this information with you.

Kathy Boutis, MD, FRCPC