Broken leg

A broken leg (leg fracture) is a break or crack in one of the bones in your leg. Common causes include falls, motor vehicle accidents and sports injuries.

Treatment of a broken leg depends on the location and severity of the injury. A severely broken leg may require surgery to implant devices into the broken bone to maintain proper alignment during healing. Other injuries may be treated with a cast or splint. In all cases, prompt diagnosis and treatment of a broken leg is critical to complete healing.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

A broken thighbone (femur) — the strongest bone in your body — usually is obvious because it takes so much force to break. But fractures of your shinbone (tibia) — the major weight-bearing bone in your lower leg — and the bone that runs alongside your tibia below your knee (fibula) may be more subtle.

Signs and symptoms of a broken leg may include:

  • Severe pain, which may worsen with movement
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Obvious deformity or shortening of the affected leg
  • Inability to walk

Toddlers or young children who break a leg may simply stop walking, even if they can't explain why. Unexplained crying may be a symptom of a toddler who has a fracture.

When to see a doctor

If you or your child has any signs or symptoms of a broken leg, see a doctor right away. Delays in diagnosis and treatment can result in problems later, including poor healing.

Seek emergency medical attention for any leg fracture from a high-impact trauma, such as a car or motorcycle accident. Fractures of the thighbone are severe, potentially life-threatening injuries that require emergency medical services to help protect the area from further damage and to transfer you safely to your local hospital.

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