The tibia, or shinbone, is the most commonly fractured long bone in your body. The long bones include the femur, humerus, tibia, and fibula. A tibial shaft fracture occurs along the length of the bone, below the knee and above the ankle.
Because it typically takes a major force to break a long bone, other injuries often occur with these types of fractures.
Causes of Tibial Fractures
High-energy collisions, such as an automobile or motorcycle crash, are common causes of a tibial fracture. In cases like these, the bone can be broken into several pieces (comminuted fracture).
Sports injuries, such as a fall while skiing or running into another player during soccer, are lower-energy injuries that can cause tibial shaft fractures. These fractures are typically caused by a twisting force, and result in an oblique or spiral type of fracture.
Symptoms of Tibial Fractures
The most common symptoms of a tibial fracture are:
Inability to walk or bear weight on the leg
Deformity or instability of the leg
Bone “tenting” the skin or protruding through a break in the skin
Occasional loss of feeling in the foot
Treatment For Tibial Fractures
In planning your treatment, your doctor will consider several things, including:
The cause of your injury
Your overall health
The severity of your injury
The extent of soft tissue damage
Nonsurgical treatment may be recommended for patients who:
Are poor surgical candidates due to their overall health problems
Are less active, so are better able to tolerate small degrees of angulation or differences in leg length
Have closed fractures with only two major bone fragments and little displacement (gap)
Most injuries cause some swelling for the first few weeks. Your doctor may initially apply a splint to provide comfort and support. Unlike a full cast, a splint can be tightened or loosened, and allows swelling to occur safely. Once the swelling goes down, your doctor will consider a range of treatment options
Cast and functional brace
One proven nonsurgical treatment method is to immobilize the fracture in a cast for initial healing. After weeks in the cast, it can be replaced with a functional brace made of plastic and fasteners. The brace will provide protection and support until healing is complete. The brace allows you to take it off for hygiene issues and for physical therapy.
Your doctor may recommend surgery for your fracture if it is:
An open fracture with wounds that need monitoring
Extremely unstable because of many bone fragments and large degrees of displacement
Not healed with nonsurgical methods