Broken Leg Overview
The lower extremity, commonly referred to as the leg, contains four bones (the femur, the patella, the tibia, and the fibula) and bends at the hip, the knee, and the ankle. These bones may break (fracture) into two or more pieces.
If a broken bone has been exposed to the outside, either by a cut over the fracture, or by bone sticking out through the skin, it is called an open fracture. An open fracture is also referred to as a compound fracture.
A break in the leg may involve any of these bones:
- The femur is the bone in the thigh. It is the longest and strongest bone of the body. The upper part of the femur fits into the pelvis to form the hip joint. At this joint, it can move frontward, backward, sideways, and rotate in and out. When people refer to a "broken hip," it is this upper part of the femur that is broken.
- The lower end of the femur rests on top of the tibia, forming the knee joint. At the knee, the leg can swing frontward, backward, and rotate slightly.
- The kneecap (patella) glides back and forth in front of the knee joint. The kneecap suspends the ligaments from the thigh muscle and helps to add leverage for straightening out the leg.
- The tibia is the shinbone and supports the body's weight. The fibula runs alongside the tibia below the knee. It is on the outside part of the leg and is smaller than the tibia.
- The ankle is composed of the bottom ends of the tibia and fibula, the connecting foot bones, and the ligaments and tendons. Severe twisting injuries to the ankle can result in fractures of the tibia or fibula near or within the ankle joint.
Picture of the bones of the leg Picture of the bones of the hip
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/11/2015
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