Athletic activity is one of the most common ways that people suffer foot and ankle injuries. For some, a mild sprain can be treated with some conservative care techniques and a few days away from the game, while others suffer a more severe injury like a broken ankle and know that they’ll have a lengthy rehab ahead before they can get back to playing the sport that they love. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at the process of returning to athletic activity following surgery to repair a broken ankle.

Broken Ankle Rehabilitation

Keep in mind that the following advice is general in nature, as every ankle fracture is unique to the individual. Some may be able to recover sooner, while others may need much longer to fully overcome a significant fracture and surgery. With that in mind, here’s a look at the general timeline for returning to athletic activity.

  • First 24-48 Hours – Once your procedure has been completed, you’ll be taken to a recovery room and eventually fitted for a cast or a brace to help protect the area while healing occurs. You will likely be discharged during this time frame as well, and you’ll want someone to drive you home, even if your procedure was on your left ankle because you’ll likely be adjusting to pain medications.
  • 2-14 Days – Once you’re back at home and recovering, you’ll want to focus on following the specific instructions your surgeon gave you. Avoid getting the cast or bandages wet, and elevate the leg to help control swelling a couple of times a day. About a week or two after your surgery, you’ll typically return to your doctor’s office to ensure healing has begun as expected. You will not bear weight on the surgically addressed foot until cleared by a doctor, so your cast will likely be paired with crutches or another assistance device.
  • 2-6 Weeks – This is where recoveries can differ quite a bit between patients. Some may be transitioned to a walking boot around the 2-4 week mark, while others may be told not to bear weight until closer to six weeks post-op. Once you’re able to bear weight or have been moved out of a traditional cast, physical therapy exercises usually begin. Physical therapy is the best thing you can do for your ankle to help it heal and ensure you regain as much physical function in the area, which will be especially important if you hope to return to athletic activities at full strength. Attend every physical therapy appointment, and make sure you are doing your home-based therapy exercises.
  • 6 Weeks – 6 Months – This is where you’ll slowly work back to full weight bearing, walking and eventually running, but as you can imagine, that will take some time. For some fractures, patients who continue physical therapy and have good bone healing may be able to start running and return to sport shortly thereafter around 3-4 months after their operation, but again, that’s considered a quick recovery. For others, they may need 6-9 months before healing has progressed enough for them to return to their specific sport. Which athletic activities you hope to return to also impacts when you can return, as a swimmer or volleyball player may be able to return before a football player. Your physical therapist will be able to set you up with a strength training routine to help you reach your athletic goals in a safe and efficient manner.

Returning to sport following ankle fracture surgery will take a number of months, but results vary based on the individual, the fracture and the sport they hope to return to. You can’t control every aspect of your recovery, but if you want to give yourself a great chance at having a successful surgery and a wonderful care team who will be by your side as you recover, make sure you choose Dr. McDonald and his team to perform your operation. For more information, or for help with your foot or ankle injury, reach out to his team today at (860) 244-8889.

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