Fractures of the Tibia

Fractures of the Tibia

The lower leg is made up of two long bones called the tibia and fibula that extend between the knee and ankle. The tibia or shinbone is the larger of the two bones. It bears most of the body’s weight and helps form the ankle joint and knee joint.

A crack or break in the tibia is referred to as a tibial fracture. The tibia is the most frequently fractured long bone of the body. It normally takes a great amount of force for a fracture of the tibia to occur.

Fractures of the tibia vary depending on the force involved and are classified based on the location of the fracture, the pattern of the fracture, and exposure of the fracture site.


Tibial fractures may be caused by:

  • Fall from a height
  • Motor vehicle collisions
  • Sports injuries from twisting forces or impact
  • Osteoporosis which weakens the bones

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of tibial fractures may include:

  • Severe pain in the lower leg
  • Difficulty walking, kicking, or running
  • Numbness or tingling in the foot
  • Deformity in the lower leg
  • Inability to bear weight on the leg
  • Swelling around the injury site
  • Bruising
  • Difficulty bending the knee


The diagnosis is based on history and clinical examination. An X Ray will be required to confirm the diagnosis and note the characteristics of the fracture, which could affect management. In more complex injuries , further imaging such as a CT scan may be indicated to better delineate the anatomy and extent of the fracture.


The treatment is generally surgical unless the fracture is completely undisplaced.

Conservative treatment involves immobilisation in a plaster cast for several weeks.

Surgical treatment involves fixation with hardware such as nail / plates and screws to restore bony alignment and function. Surgical fixation allows earlier mobilisation, and the patient can commence movement of the knee and ankle once the fracture is securely fixed.