Winter brings snow and ice to our daily commutes and busy lifestyles. Icy conditions may cause falls, sprains, and fractures of your foot and ankle. Busy holiday schedules with hazardous sidewalks and trails may inevitably lead to a serious injury. Falls on snow and ice are a major cause of ankle and foot sprains and fractures. These types of injuries require immediate treatment to prevent further damage and prolonged treatment course.
The ankle joint is vulnerable to serious injury from hard falls on snow and ice. The hard ice accelerates the fall and may cause more trauma due to the foot moving in any direction after the initial slip. Several bones and joints of the foot are more susceptible to injury as well from a fall on the ice. Often, in patients with less severe sprains or fractures, patients may walk and mistakenly believe the injury does not require medical treatment. You should never assume the ability to walk means your ankle isn’t broken or badly sprained. Applying weight on the injured joint may make the injury worse and lead to chronic joint instability with joint pain and arthritis later in life.
It is best to have the injured foot or ankle evaluated as soon as possible for the proper diagnosis and treatment. If you cannot see a foot and ankle surgeon or visit the emergency room / urgent care clinic, follow the RICE technique – rest, ice, compression and elevation. Fractures are most associated with
- Pain the site of fracture, may extend from foot / ankle into the knee
- Significant swelling
- Blisters over the fracture area
- Bruising quickly after the injury
- Bone protruding through skin, a compound fracture – requires emergent treatment!
Many sprains and fractures may be treated with a cast to promote bone healing; however, surgery may be necessary to repair malalignment of fractured bones to allow proper fracture healing. Newly designed fracture plates and screws allow repair of these areas with less surgical trauma.
If you have fallen and injured your foot or ankle, I recommend scheduling an appointment with your foot and ankle surgeon immediately. This will help diagnose the problem early and assist with the proper treatment to reduce the risk of further damage.
- Dr Kevin C. Bryant, DPM FACFAS
Diplomate, American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery