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A broken heel or fractured calcaneus bone is usually caused by falling or jumping from a height. It can also occur from road accidents or bike accidents.
It is also possible for the calcaneus or heel bone to suffer a stress fracture in athletes such as long-distance runners which may come on more gradually.
There will usually be sudden pain in the heel at the time of injury with rapid swelling and bruising developing shortly after. WIth an acute calcaneal fracture the athlete will have difficulty weight bearing.
Seek medical attention immediately if you suspect a broken bone. Treatment usually involves immobilizing the foot in a plaster cast for 6 to 8 weeks while it heals. This will prevent weight bearing. Surgery is sometimes necessary, for example if the fractured bone parts are out of position or displaced, or if the fracture has broken the skin.
Surgical procedure can involve attaching a metal plate to the heel bones to return them to their normal position. At the same time, it is important to ensure that the cartilage is replaced as close as possible to its original position. Very occasionally, a fracture will not require a plate. A doctor can explain your best option to you.
After surgery, the patient may be required to rest their foot from supporting weight for a period of recovery that can last up to 3 months.
Similar and related injuries
Bruised heel is bruising of the soft tissue under the heel. Symptoms do not radiate forwards into the foot.
Plantar fasciitis causes pain under the heel. It is also an over use injury but differes from bruised heel as it is usually worse first thing in the morning and pain can radiate into the arch of the foot.
Stress fracture of the calcaneus is a hairline fracture of the calcaneus caused by over use.