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Ankle Bone or Joint Injury

Calcaneus Fracture (Broken Heel)

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Posted 2 months ago

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Last updated: 03/12/2022

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by James McCormack

Calcaneus Fracture: Anatomy

The Calcaneus bone (heel bone) sits on the base of the foot under the ankle joint, one of several tarsal bones, and along with the talus, it forms the hindfoot. Fracture to the calcaneus is rare, with tarsal bones accounting for approximately 2% of all fractures, while Calcaneus Fractures account for 50-60% of those tarsal fractures. Fracture to the calcaneus is also known as a Lovers Fracture as historically it occurs when landing from a fall, i.e. jumping out of a window or off a balcony.

Calcaneus Fracture Diagram

Calcaneus Fracture Symptoms

Symptoms of a Calcaneus Fracture include pain when weight bearing on the heel that is worse with impact activity such as walking, running or jumping.

A patient may notice swelling and heat around their heel bone, and there may be subtle bruising on the heel bone.

Causes of Calcaneus Fracture

The most common cause of a Calcaneus Fracture is a fall from a balcony, ladder, table or window. These high forces associated with landing from a height directly onto the Calcaneus are often sufficient to create an impact fracture. Similar types of Calcaneus Fractures can occur due to car crashes.

Repetitive stress on the Calcaneus bone from activities such as running can cause a Calcaneus Stress Fracture. These types of stress fractures are often misdiagnosed as Insertional Achilles Tendonitis. Low Vitamin-D levels, Osteopenia or Osteoporosis, can increase your risk of developing a Calcaneus Stress Fracture.

Avulsion fractures are when a tendon or a ligament pulls off a fragment of bone from the Calcaneus. This occurs from a sudden movement and typically involves the Achilles Tendon or the Bifurcate Ligament.

Calcaneus Fracture Diagnosis

A clinical assessment by a Physical Therapist can identify the likelihood of a Calcaneus Fracture through clinical tests such as the Calcaneal Squeeze test. If this test is positive for pain, it is likely that you will be referred for an x-ray. If a Calcaneus Fracture is demonstrated on the x-ray, you may be referred for a CT scan for further clarity on the size and location of the fracture.

Calcaneus Fracture Classification

There are two main categories of Calcaneus Fracture. An extraarticular fracture accounts for 25% of all Calcaneus Fractures, while intraarticular fractures account for 75%.

Type 1

Fractures: Non-displaced or minimally displaced fragment

 

Type 2

2 bony fragments which are subdivided into A, B or C depending on if they are medial process or lateral process fracture

Type 3

3 bony fragments, divided into AB, AC or BC relative to the position and location of fracture lines

Type 4

4 comminuted bony fragments.

Calcaneus Fracture Treatment

Treatment for Calcaneus Fracture is decided based on the type and location of the fracture. When conservative treatment is appropriate, a period of 4-6 weeks in a walker boot is recommended whereas walking short distances as pain allows is normally recommended. Upon removal of the boot, Physical therapy consisting of mobalisations, mobility and strengthening exercises should commence.

Physical Therapy can last for 4-6 weeks depending on the cause of injury. A fracture from a fall may require simple strengthening and rehabilitation while a Calcaneus Stress Fracture from running can require a thorough gait analysis and running re-training alongside insoles and changes in footwear. 

Surgery is necessary for a lot of instances of a Calcaneus Fracture. The type of surgery required should be discussed with an orthopaedic consultant.

Physiotherapy with James McCormack

This is not medical advice. We recommend a consultation with a medical professional such as James McCormack. He offers Online Physiotherapy Appointments for £45.

Related Articles:

Calcaneus Fractures: FAQs
Causes and Treatment for a Bruised Heel 
Conditions that cause Heel Pain in the Morning

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