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by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Shinbone Fracture

(Broken Shin; Lower Leg Break; Tibia Fracture)

Definition

A shinbone fracture is a break in the larger bone of lower leg. This bone is called tibia.
Fractured Leg
Nucleus factsheet image
© Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

It may be caused by trauma from:
  • Falls
  • Twists
  • A direct blow to the leg
  • A motor vehicle accident
  • A gunshot wound

Risk Factors

Things that may raise your risk are:
  • Playing some sports, such as soccer, skiing, gymnastics, or dance
  • Having a health problem that may result in falls, such as weak muscles

Symptoms

Shinbone fracture may cause:
  • Leg pain that is worse with motion
  • Bruising and swelling
  • Problems walking and putting weight on the leg
  • A change in the way the leg looks

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about symptoms, past health, and how the injury happened. Images of your leg will be taken to confirm a break and see how severe it is. Tests may include:

Treatment

It can take 4 to 6 months to heal. The goals of treatment are to ease pain and swelling. This may include:
  • Medicine to ease pain and swelling
  • A splint, brace, walking boot, or cast to prevent the leg from moving as it heals
  • A walker or crutches to take weight off of the leg as it heals
  • Exercises to help with strength, flexibility, and range of motion
Children's bones have growth plates that let bones grow and harden with age. A child with a fracture may need to be checked over time to make sure the bone heals the right way and keeps growing.

Putting Bones Back in Place

Some fractures cause pieces of bone to come apart. These pieces will need to be put back into place. This may be done:
  • Without surgery—anesthesia will be used to decrease pain while the doctor moves the pieces back into place
  • With surgery—pins, screws, plates, or a rod may be needed to reconnect the pieces and hold them in place

Prevention

Most fractures are due to accidents. Keeping bones and muscles strong may help. This may be done through diet and exercise.

RESOURCES

American Physical Therapy Association
http://www.orthopt.org
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://www.orthoinfo.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Orthopaedic Association
http://www.coa-aco.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
http://www.canorth.org

References

Fractures of the proximal tibia (shinbone). Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00393. Updated May 2019. Accessed December 9, 2019.
Pallin D. Knee and Lower Leg. In: Marx, Hockberger, et al, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Mosby; 2013.
Preventing falls and related fractures. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/fracture/preventing-falls-and-related-fractures. Updated December 2018. Accessed December 9, 2019.
Tibia shaft fracture—emregency management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/tibia-shaft-fracture-emergency-management. Accessed December 9, 2019.
Tibia (shinbone) shaft fractures. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00522. Updated May 2018. Accessed December 9, 2019.

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