It seems like a week doesn't go by without some public figure who stumbles and
breaks or fractures their foot or ankle. Recently, Vegas magician Lance Burton broke
his foot during his act. Actress Jennie Garth stumbled in her home when she went to
answer the door while holding her baby and fractured her foot. In LaGuardia Airport,
returning to Washington for more congressional meetings, Supreme Court Nominee
Judge Sonia Sotomayor stumbled and broke her ankle. Houston Rockets star center
Yao Ming broke his foot during the NBA playoffs, which doctors now say may be a
A fracture is a disruption of the integrity of the bone. So a fracture is a broken bone. It
is one and the same. I often hear my patients in my Houston podiatry practice ask me
if they have a break or a fracture. The answer is "yes."
Like everything, there are different levels of severity of foot and ankle fractures, but
even the most minor of these injuries require immobilization, usually with a walking
cast-boot, often referred to as a cam-walker. Although it does not provide full
immobilization, it does take enough pressure off of the bones and reduces the pull of
the muscles and tendons to be adequate. When the fracture is stable, this is a good
option to minimize the loss of mobility and muscle atrophy.
Other, more severe, fractures need true immobilization with non-weightbearing casts
made of fiberglass or plaster along with the use of crutches. This transfers all pressure
off of the bone and eliminates the pull of the muscles. Best used for fractures in good
position but in an unstable area, this treatment can be expected to continue for a
minimum of six to eight weeks. This is the amount of time necessary for bone to
clinically heal with enough strength to bear weight.
When a bone is displaced, angulated, or in an area at risk for not healing well, surgical
care of the injury is needed. This can include using surgical plates, pins, and screws to
repair the bone in the best position and with maximum stability. This is almost always
followed with the application of a cast or cam-walker for the same six to eight week
It does not take a major traumatic injury to break a bone in your feet or ankle. A
misstep off a curb, stepping in a hole in a parking lot, or even a twist and stumble at
home is all it takes to injure the bone. If something like this happens, and you have
even a small amount of bruising or swelling, visit your podiatrist to be sure you get
the appropriate treatment.