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When Can I Start Running after an Ankle Fracture?

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Updated July 17, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Running can be great exercise.

Your physical therapist can help you quickly return to running after an ankle fracture.

© Brett Sears, 2011
Question: When Can I Start Running after an Ankle Fracture?
I have recently suffered a fractured ankle and had to have surgery with plates and screws to reduce the fracture. I enjoy running for exercise, and I want to get back to running as quickly as possible. When can I start running again after suffering a broken ankle?
Answer:

A broken ankle can be a painful and scary experience. You may need to have surgery called an open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) to fix the fracture. Many times, your ankle can be reduced without a surgical intervention. Either way, you most likely will have to wear a cast on your leg for quite some time to allow things to heal properly.

After an ankle fracture, you most likely will have a difficult time performing functional tasks like walking and driving a car. And if you enjoy running for exercise, it may be quite some time before you can get back to running.

Be sure to work closely with your doctor and physical therapist if you have suffered a broken ankle. Both can help you achieve your ultimate goal or running. Plus, work hard in physical therapy and do your best to stay motivated. Sometimes the right attitude can help you achieve your ultimate goal of returning to running.

Common Impairments after an Ankle Fracture

Common impairments that you may need to work on after an ankle fracture include:

You may initially be required to walk with an assistive device like a walker or crutches after breaking your ankle. Your physical therapist can help you choose the correct device. He or she can also make sure that your assistive device is properly sized for you.

Your physical therapist can work with you to help you improve some of these impairments. He or she may prescribe exercises to improve your ankle ROM. Strengthening and plyometric exercises may be done to ensure that the muscles that support your ankle are strong. A BAPS board may be used to help improve balance in you injured leg.

Wolff's Law states that bone grows in response to the stresses that is placed upon it. Your physical therapist will help you progress through the proper stages of weight bearing to make sure that adequate and appropriate stress is placed on your healing ankle.

So When Can Running Begin?

Everyone is different, and many factors may limit your ability to return to running after an ankle fracture. These include:

  • The severity of the break
  • Whether or not surgery was performed
  • The success of physical therapy
  • The amount of effort you put into your rehabilitation

In general, you can attempt to start running about three to four months after your injury. By this time, the bones in your ankle should be well healed, and your ROM and strength should be close to normal. You can progress your running mileage as long as your pain is minimal and your ROM and strength remain excellent. By six to nine months after your injury, you should be able to run without problems.

Again, everyone is different and every injury is different. Some people are able to run much sooner after breaking their ankle. Unfortunately, some people continue to be limited by pain, loss of ROM, or limited strength long after their injury and may take longer to return to running. You must work closely with your doctor and physical therapist to be sure that running is safe for you and to set realistic goals and expectations after an ankle fracture.

If you are a runner who has suffered an ankle fracture, chances are you are eager to return to running as soon as possible. Be sure to work with your doctor and physical therapist to ensure that it is safe for you to run and to create a plan for you to quickly and effectively return to running.

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