How to tell if your ankle or foot is broken

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Your ankle is composed of 3 bones in the ankle joint, and each foot contains more than 2 dozen bones, according to the Mayo Clinic. When you suffer an ankle or foot injury, it can be difficult to determine whether you have a sprain or a break. Also, the severity of a break or fracture can vary. For example, you can have a tiny crack in your bone or a total break which can pierce your skin. It's important to know the symptoms, risk factors and causes of a broken ankle or foot.

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    How to Tell if Your Ankle or Foot is Broken

  1. 1

    Identify the signs. A break or fracture can appear in any area of your ankle or foot. For instance, if you suffer a talus fracture, or a break in the bone which is between your heel and lower leg (fibula and tibia), you will experience acute pain, tenderness and swelling. Your talus fracture can resemble an ankle sprain because of severe bruising and tenderness on the outside of your ankle.

    As with the talus fracture, breaks in your ankle and foot can cause an inability to bear weight on the ankle or foot, as well as inflammation and tenderness. In addition, you may also experience pain which can increase with activity and decrease with rest, according to the Mayo Clinic. Your ankle or foot can appear deformed, or you may see puncture wounds, cuts or bone fragments at the site of injury. With stress fractures in your foot or ankle, you can also experience swelling on the top of your foot or outside of your ankle.

    If you hear or feel a snap when you injure your foot or ankle, it is not always a sign that a bone has broken, according to the Mayo Clinic.

  2. 2

    Know the risk factors. For example, being overweight can put you at an increased risk for a broken ankle or foot. In addition, participation in high-impact sports like football or gymnastics can factor into your potential for experiencing a fractured ankle or foot. These factors can result in stress which can shift from your muscles to your bones.

    Other risk factors include medical conditions such as osteoporosis or neuropathy in your feet. Certain occupations can put you at risk for injury as well.

  3. 3

    Understand the causes of an ankle or foot fracture. The most common causes of this injury are falls or heavy weight dropping on your foot. Car accidents, which cause crushing injuries, are also common. Simple missteps in which you put your foot down awkwardly can cause a broken ankle or foot. Stress factures can occur from overuse or repetitive force on your foot.

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