(Broken Shin; Broken Leg; Tibia Fracture)
A shinbone fracture is a break in the tibia (shinbone). The lower leg has two bones that connect the knee to the ankle: the tibia and the fibula. The tibia is the larger of the two bones and runs on the inside of the lower leg. The fibula is much smaller and runs along the outside of the lower leg.
A shinbone fracture is caused by trauma to the shinbone. Trauma includes:
- Gunshot wounds
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease, condition, or injury.
- Advancing age
- Decreased muscle mass
- Certain diseases and conditions that weaken bones, such as tumors
- Participation in certain contact sports, such as football or soccer
- Violence, such as car or car-pedestrian accidents
- Severe pain
- Swelling and tenderness
- Bruising in the injured area
- Decreased range of motion of the knee or ankle
- Usually an inability to bear weight on the fractured leg
The doctor will ask about your symptoms, physical activity, and how the injury occurred, and will examine the injured area.
Tests may include:
Treatment will depend on the severity of the injury. Treatment involves:
- Putting the pieces of the bone back in place, which may require anesthesia and/or surgery
- Keeping the pieces together while the bone heals itself
Devices that may be used to hold the bone in place while it heals include:
- A cast (may be used with or without surgery)
- A metal plate with screws (requires surgery)
- Screws alone (requires surgery)
- A rod down the middle of the bone (requires surgery)
- Metal pins across the bone with a frame holding them outside the bone (requires surgery)
External Fixation of Tibia
The doctor may prescribe pain medication depending on the level of pain. Your doctor will order more x-rays while the bone heals to ensure that the bones have not shifted position.
When your doctor decides you are ready, start range-of-motion and strengthening exercises. You may be referred to a physical therapist to assist you with these exercises. Do not return to sports until your leg is fully healed and leg muscle strength is back to normal.
A shinbone fracture can take many weeks to heal, but more severe or open fractures may take even several months.
If you are diagnosed with a shinbone fracture, follow your doctor's instructions .
To help prevent shinbone fractures:
- Do not put yourself at risk for trauma to the bone.
- Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.
- Do weight-bearing exercises to build strong bones.
- Build strong muscles to prevent falls and to stay active and agile.
- Wear proper padding and safety equipment when participating in sports or activities.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Physical Therapy Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aaos.org .
Giannoudis PV. Papakostidis C. Roberts C. A review of the management of open fractures of the tibia and femur. J Bone & Joint Surg (British Vol). 2006;88:281-289.
Steele M. Tibia and fibula fractures. eMedicine website. Accessed June 4, 2001.
Last reviewed November 2008 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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