Is My Leg Broken?

By Chad Evans, PT

How to tell if you have a Broken Leg

A broken leg can happen to everyone!  A trip and fall over kids’ toys, epic wipeout on a skateboard, or falling while saving a kitten from a tree can cause a broken leg.

How to tell if you broke a bone in your lower leg by JOI

Image of the lower leg and bones of the foot



The leg consists of 4 bones:  femur, patella, tibia, and fibula.  The femur is the large bone in the upper leg, a part of the hip and knee joints.  The patella is the small bone that sits at the front of the knee, and the tibia and fibula are the 2 long bones in the lower leg.  The tibia is the larger bone, and the fibula is the smaller bone is on the outside of the lower leg.

tibia and fibula lower leg bones

Tibia and Fibula bones of the lower leg

Broken Leg Causes

As mentioned before, a broken or fractured leg can happen from simple day-to-day tasks or sports activities.  The patella is more involved in a trip and fall type accident due to the patient typically landing on a bent knee.  Fractures of both the femur and tibia usually involve accidents with more force, such as being hit by a car.  The fibula can also be injured with direct force or by twisting the ankle and falling.

Signs and Symptoms of a Broken Leg

Sometimes a broken bone is obvious, such as a bone is sticking out of your skin or your leg is deformed.  Other times it is not as obvious.  Things you should look out for if you suspect a broken leg are:

  • Pain right after a fall or blow to the leg.
  • Swelling in the area of the injury.
  • Bruising.
  • Difficulty moving your leg.
  • Numbness or tingling in the area of the injury or lower in the leg.
  • Difficulty bearing weight in the leg.

Diagnosis of a Broken Leg

If you suspect you may have a broken leg, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.  An X-ray, or radiograph, is the gold standard for diagnosing a broken bone.  A fracture can be a small crack in the bone or a largely displaced fracture where the bones are not in line with each other.

Broken Leg Treatment

The severity of the fracture will determine the treatment of the injury.

  • Large fractures that cause a deformity or have broken through the skin will almost always require surgery. This surgery requires fixation, such as a metal plate or screws placed by a surgeon.  After this, you should immobilize the leg by some form of a cast or brace.
    • Restricting weight-bearing is also typical for fractures to the femur, tibia, and fibula.
  • Fractures to the patella may also require surgery and immobilization, with weight-bearing typically being allowed sooner.
  • Smaller, non-displaced fractures will usually be treated by immobilization to allow for the healing to occur with variable weight-bearing restrictions depending on the bone that was broken.
    • The fibula is not a weight-bearing bone, so a fracture may not require weight-bearing restrictions.
  • Physical therapy will help following a fracture. These treatments include stretching the hip, knee, or ankle to decrease any stiffness from the immobilization and strengthen the leg back to its normal strength.  This is vital to be able to walk and return to all daily tasks without limping.
  • To schedule an appointment for physical or occupational therapy, call 904-858-7045 or call any of the 12 areas JOI Rehab Centers.
  • Related Articles: Total Ankle Joint Replacement and
  • Ankle Fracture
  • High Ankle Sprain
  • Low Ankle Sprain

JOI and JOI Rehab

JOI Physicians continue to offer online new patient appointments. This is another option to make it more convenient to make new patient appointments with less phone hold times. Follow the link below to select your JOI MD and schedule online.

You can still call 904-JOI-2000 to make new patient JOI Physician Appointments if that is your preference.

To make appointments with JOI Rehab, please call 904-858-7045.

Book An Appointment with a JOI Physician in Jax.

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By: Chad Evans, PT

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