As winter storms sweep through Colorado and ski season ramps up, serious injuries from falls inevitably occur. 

Ski injuries and falls on ice and snow are a major cause of ankle sprains and fractures. 

It’s critical to seek prompt treatment to prevent further damage that can prolong recovery.

The ankle joint is especially vulnerable to serious injury from hard falls on ice. 

Ice accelerates the fall and often causes more severe trauma because the foot can go in any direction after slipping. 

With less severe fractures and sprains, it’s possible to walk and mistakenly believe the injury doesn’t require medical treatment. 

Never assume being able to walk means your ankle isn’t broken or badly sprained. 

Putting weight on an injured joint can worsen the problem and lead to chronic instability, joint pain and arthritis later in life.

Some people may fracture and sprain an ankle at the same time, and a bad sprain can mask the fracture. 

It’s best to have an injured ankle evaluated as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and treatment. 

If you can’t see a foot and ankle surgeon or visit the emergency room right away, follow the RICE technique – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation – until medical care is available.

Even though symptoms of ankle sprains and fractures are similar, fractures are associated with pain at the fracture site that can extend from the foot to the knee. 

There is often significant swelling and bruising soon after the injury. Blisters may also occur at the fracture site.

In the case of a compound fracture, bone protrudes through the skin and requires immediate attention.

Most ankle fractures and some sprains are treated by immobilizing the joint in a cast or splint to promote healing.

In some cases, surgery may be needed to repair fractures where bones need to be realigned properly. 

Newly designed surgical plates and screws allow repair of these injuries with less surgical trauma.  

With newer methods, there are smaller incisions to minimize tissue damage and bleeding and accelerate the healing process.

If you fall on a slippery spot and hurt your ankle, the best advice is to seek medical attention immediately. 

This aids in early diagnosis and proper treatment of the ankle injury and reduces the risk of further damage.

For more information about ankle fractures and sprains or other foot and ankle problems, contact the Wentz Foot and Ankle office at 719-539-6600.

Dr. Ralph Wentz is a foot and ankle surgeon in Salida. 

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