With winter in full swing, serious injuries from ice-related falls can occur. When an individual falls on icy surfaces, there are major causes of foot and ankle sprains, as well as fractures.

It's critical to seek prompt treatment to prevent further damage that can prolong healing. Foot and ankle joints are vulnerable to serious injury during falls, particularly with any hard fall on the ice. The mechanism of the fall on ice accentuates the impact, and often causes more severe trauma because the foot can go in any direction after slipping.

In cases of less severe fractures and sprains, it's possible to walk and mistakenly believe the injury doesn't require medical treatment. Never assume the ability to walk means your ankle isn't broken or badly sprained. If you are weight bearing on the injured area, it can worsen the problem and lead to chronic instability, joint pain and arthritis later in life.

Early diagnosis and proper treatment of the injured area reduces the risk of further damage to oneself.

Dr. Robert Weiss lives in Westport and has a sports-podiatry practice in Darien. He is a former marathon runner and was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 and the 1988 Olympic Trials.