How to Know If You Have Fractured a Leg Bone

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There are three major bones in the leg: the femur, the tibia and the fibula. The femur is the long bone in the upper portion of the leg. The tibia and fibula are the two smaller bones that are located in the lower portion of the leg. Breaking any of these bones can be incredibly painful, though many people are unsure if they have a broken bone or other injury.

It can be hard to tell how serious a leg injury is when it occurs.
It can be hard to tell how serious a leg injury is when it occurs.

Step 1

Inspect the injured leg for any puncture wounds with protruding bones. With compound fractures, the bone can be seen poking through the skin.

An X-ray of a broken thigh bone.
An X-ray of a broken thigh bone.

Step 2

Check the injured leg for swelling. The tissue surrounding a fractured bone will nearly always swell. The swelling tends to occur quickly, often doubling in size in approximately 10 minutes.

Check the injured leg for swelling.
Check the injured leg for swelling.

Step 3

Inspect the injured leg for bruising. Tissue surrounding a fracture usually bruises due to the broken blood vessels in the injured area.

Check the injured leg for bruising.
Check the injured leg for bruising.

Step 4

Check the injured leg for unusual warmth. The warmth is usually caused by excessive blood flow to the injured area in the body's attempt to heal the injury.

Check your leg for unusual warmth.
Check your leg for unusual warmth.

Step 5

Check to see if movement is impaired. In many cases, a fractured leg will not be able to move.

A fractured leg will not be able to move.
A fractured leg will not be able to move.

Step 6

Check to see if the injured leg can bear weight . Nearly all fractured legs will not be able to bear weight.

Carefully test to see if your leg will bear weight.
Carefully test to see if your leg will bear weight.

Step 7

Get an X-ray of the injured leg. This is the only surefire way to diagnose a fracture that is not a compound fracture.

An X-ray of the knees.
An X-ray of the knees.

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Tips & Warnings

  • See a doctor right away if you suspect you have a fractured leg.

References

  • "Foundations and Adult Health Nursing;" Barbara Christensen; 2006
  • "Anatomy and Physiology;" Rod R. Seeley, Trent D. Stephens and Philip Tate; 2008
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