| How Do You Know if Your Foot is Broken or Sprained?
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How Do You Know if Your Foot is Broken or Sprained?

How Do You Know if Your Foot is Broken or Sprained?

Most Americans will have seen Boston Celtics Gordon Hayward’s brutal injury in which he fell and in gruesome fashion twisted his foot, in the process breaking a number of bones. But the difference between a sprain and fractured foot isn’t always so clear. Sprains and fractures are notoriously difficult to differentiate and what might initially feel like a simple twisted ankle could turn out to be a broken foot. As such knowing how to differentiate the two is key for anybody in the sporting world. But it’s also crucial for anybody who may have fallen and experienced foot pain in their day to day lives.

difference between sprain and fracture footHow does your doctor know the difference between a sprain and fractured foot?

When you fall and hurt your foot and head to the emergency department it is difficult to know what the Doctor will do. Will they send you away with nothing but a bill and a few wasted hours or will they order X-Rays and confirm your worst suspicions?

 

Every Doctor has a sneaky trick for knowing when to order an X-Ray for any foot injury. This trick is known as the Ottawa ankle rules. If you show up at the emergency department with ankle pain the Doctor will order an X-ray if there is any of the following:

  • There is tenderness when the doctors touch bone within 6 cm of the lateral malleolus (this is the big bumpy bone on the outside of your ankle)
  • There is tenderness when the doctor touches bone within 6cm of the medial malleolus (you might have guessed this one is the large bumpy bone on the inside of your ankle)
  • The patient is unable to put weight on the affected ankle for more than 4 steps.

For foot pain, there is a slightly different rule. The doctor will order an X-ray if there is any of the following:

  • Tenderness when the doctor touches at the bottom of the fifth metatarsal (the outermost bone of the foot)
  • Tenderness when the doctor touches on a bone called the navicular bone (this is right under your ankle)
  • The patient is unable to put weight on the affected ankle for more than 4 steps.

These rules were made up (unsurprisingly) by a group of Doctors in Ottawa in the early 1990s. They are incredibly sensitive. In fact, if your foot pain does not meet these criteria there is a 97.% chance you do not have a broken foot or ankle. Of course, testing positive doesn’t mean you have a broken foot, it just means an X-ray is probably needed to exclude any breaks.

 

Treatments and Where to Go

For a simple sprain, home care and RICE will suffice. That is Rest, ice compress and elevate. For a fracture, a cast may be needed to be fitted. Or in Gordon Hayward’s case, surgery provided by specialist clinics.

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