The tibia is located in the bottom half of your leg, it is also known as the shin bone. The tibia is the most commonly fractured long bone in the body. For this type of injury to happen it takes a large force such as a motor collision or a direct hard impact tackle during rugby or similar sport. The lower leg is made up of two bones the tibia and the fibula. The tibia is larger and absorbs the majority of weight that is placed through the leg.
Types of fracture
Tibial fractures vary depending on the part of the bone that has been broken. A displaced fracture occurs when the bones that have been broken are out of alignment. In contrast a stable fracture is where the two broken bones are still disconnected but there is no clear deformity. The skin around the fracture can be intact or the bone may puncture the skin. This is classed as open or closed fracture.
A tibial fracture no matter how sever requires immediate medical attention. A fracture usually causes an immediate onset of severe pain.
- Inability to walk or weight bear on the affected leg
- Deformity or instability of the leg
- Bone protrusion over the fracture site
- Occasional loss of sensation in the foot
Tibial fractures are caused by high impact falls or a high energy collisions. Less commonly there is a chance of fracturing the tibia during a twisting motion if there is enough force which would result in an oblique or spiral type fracture. Typical causes are a skiing fall or colliding with another player during a tackle in a sports match.
When planning your treatment your doctor will consider the following:
- Your overall health
- The cause of the injury
- The severity if the injury
- The complications attached to the injury (if any)
Non-surgical treatments are common although dependent on the type of fracture. Non-surgical approach will be considered if:
- Underlying health problems puts you at risk of further complications as a result of surgery
- You have stress fractures or a fracture with minimal movement of the fractured ends.
Initially there will be lots of swelling for the first few weeks as the body naturally tries to repair the injured area. Following this there will be a splint applied to the area to try and promote the correct alignment while the bones heal together.
After this stage there will a splint applied to ensure there is no further injury and to provide comfort and support to the injured bone. In addition to this, when the splint is removed it will be replaced by a brace which provides functional stability allowing you to still be able to be mobile without putting yourself in pain or at risk of further damage. This will normally be present during your rehabilitation process.
Often if the fracture is sever and requires realignment, surgery is the best and safest option. The current method is an insertion of a metal rod into the bone over the fracture site to re-align the bone and ensure correct growth. Depending on the fracture there will be metal plate attached also to promote healthy healing of the fractured tibia.