Calcaneal fractures are one of the most challenging injuries to treat and one of the most divisive. The purpose of this historical review is to highlight the evidence of calcaneal fracture and its treatment through history.
Archaeological, religious, artistic, literary and historical accounts were searched for descriptions of calcaneal fracture to give a thorough overview of the subject. The scientific literature was searched to highlight the evolution of treatment techniques.
For over 2500 years, the only available option was conservative treatment due to the high risk of infection and limb loss in a world without antibiotics, plastic surgery techniques and adequate osteosynthesis devices. At the beginning of the twentieth century, treatment was still rather crude, consisting of closed reduction by impaction by a Cotton’s mallet, immobilisation of the foot into presses and strict bed rest in a plaster cast for five weeks. Only in the case of untreatable pain, triple arthrodesis could be employed. Regardless, the results were dismal. The debate on the superiority of open reduction and primary subtalar arthrodesis over open and closed reduction spans the entire history of medicine.
The long path of history has brought great improvement in the treatment of calcaneus fracture, but the debate about the best treatment is far from being over. There is a lack of good quality randomised control trials conducted according to an agreed set of outcome scores despite some excellent efforts. Therefore, despite the attempts made over the years and new, more precise prognostic scores, the outcomes of each technique in use today are as unique as the individuals who suffer from a calcaneal fracture.

© 2022. The Author(s).