A fibular fracture is a break to your fibula caused by a forceful impact that results in injury. It can also happen when there’s more pressure or stress on the bone than it can handle. The fibula is a bone in the lower leg stretching from the knee to the ankle and visible from the outside. It supports your ankle and lower leg muscles.
Fibular fractures are a common injury seen in the ER. The fracture may cause the bone to break into two pieces or several smaller pieces. Here’s what you need to know about them.
Different Types of Fibular Fractures
There are different types of fibular fractures. The type you experience depends on the kind of bone injury you have, where it happened, and how serious it is. Here are some of the most common fibular fractures.
- Lateral malleolus fractures: These are fibular fractures that take place at the ankle.
- Fibular head fractures: These are fractures seen at the knee portion of the fibula bone.
- Avulsion fractures: These fractures take place when a part of the bone is pulled away by the tendon or ligament attached to it.
- Stress fractures: Stress fractures are a result of repeated stress to the bone and are most commonly seen in sports activities such as long-distance running, basketball, tennis, gymnastics, dance, and track and field.
- Fibular shaft fractures: These are fractures seen in the middle of the fibula bone.
Fibular fractures are usually caused by:
- Low-energy injuries: Simple, ground-level falls or sports injuries that athletes usually experience.
- High-energy injuries: Injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents, for example, or gunshot wounds.
Sometimes fibular fractures can also be the result of child abuse or overuse of the bone.
Fibular fractures can show the following symptoms:
- Pain or aches at the site of the fracture on the body.
- Tenderness, swelling, or bruising.
- Visible signs of deformity.
- Inability to bear weight or take any form of pressure on the injured leg.
- Sensations of coldness or numbness in the foot.
- Bleeding or bruising at the site of the fracture.
- Pain that gets worse when you move.
- Difficulty walking.
When You Should See a Doctor
Fibular fractures are usually treated as emergencies. You should visit a doctor if you suspect you have such a fracture. Call 911 or your local emergency helpline number if there’s been a high-energy injury such as a motor vehicle accident or gunshot wound. Also, get immediate medical help if you see any of the following:
- The person isn’t breathing or responding or is unable to move.
- There is a lot of bleeding.
- Even gentle pressure or touching causes pain.
- There are visible deformities.
- The bone has come out through the skin.
- The toes feel numb or look bluish in color.
Your doctor will physically examine your injury and run tests to understand the type of injury and how serious it is.
- Physical examination: Your doctor will carry out a complete physical examination as the first stage of your diagnosis. Typically, these include looking for signs of deformities, feeling the bone and joint surfaces, and testing for muscle weakness, reflexes, and range of motion.
- X-ray: Your doctor may order x-rays to get a better look at your injury to see if you have a fracture or dislocation. A dislocation is when the bone moves out of its original location.
- CT scan, bone scan, or MRI: Your doctor may order a CT scan, bone scan, or MRI to identify fractures not visible on the x-ray and to get more detailed images of the interiors of the bone and the soft tissues.
- Additional tests: Additional tests such as an angiogram or a special x-ray of blood vessels may be ordered to find out if there’s tissue damage around the bone.
It usually takes four to six weeks to recover from a fracture, but this can vary. Sometimes, a doctor may need to recommend a surgical procedure.
Your doctor will prescribe medication to help you manage any pain that you're experiencing. You may also be asked to visit the doctor again and take x-rays to see how well your bone is healing. When you're able to start moving your leg or ankle, your doctor may recommend physical therapy or exercises, also called rehabilitation. It's important to follow these exercises. They can help you heal faster, remove stiffness, and improve your range of motion.
Ask your doctor when you can resume normal activity or weight-bearing exercises. Also, ask for your doctor's advice before you get back to sports activities.