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Fractures of the Fibula: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Recovery

Fractures of the Fibula

Causes, Symptoms, Treatment Options and Recovery

The term fibula fracture is used to describe a break in the fibula, a bone in the lower leg. It usually results in conjunction with a broken ankle or a fracture of the tibia. Fibula fracture results from a forceful impact such as falling, landing on the foot after a high jump, or an impact to the outer leg. Spraining your ankle and rolling it can also cause a fracture in the fibula. Fractures of the fibula are common among athletes.


Fibula Bone – An Overview

Fibula and tibia are the main bones of the lower leg. These are two of the four long bones of the body. The fibula is the small bone, also known as the calf bone located on the outside of the leg while the tibia, also known as the shin bone, is located on the inside of the lower leg. Tibia and fibula join at the ankle and the knee and help support and stabilize the lower leg and ankle muscles. Fibula, because of its small size, is prone to breaking. The main function of the fibula is to provide support to the tibia. This exerts a force on it and, therefore, stress fractures of the fibula are a common occurrence.


Types and Causes of Fibula Fracture

Fracture of the fibula can vary in type and severity and can happen at any part of the bone. Here are the types of fractures of the fibula and the causes behind them.

  • If the fibula gets fractured at the ankle, the resulting fracture is called lateral malleolus.
  • If the fibula gets fractured at the upper end of the knee, it causes fibular head fracture
  • Avulsion fractures of the fibula happen if a small part of the bone attached to the ligament or tendon breaks away from the main bone
  • Stress fractures of the fibula occur if there is a repetitive stress applied to the fibula by activities such as hiking or running
  • A direct blow to the fibula can result in the fracture of the mid part of the fibula which is known as the fibular shaft fracture

Fractures of the fibula are common among athletes especially the ones who are into sports that involve jumping, running or making some quick change of directions such as soccer, basketball and football. The treatment and recovery period of a fibula fracture depends on the type of fracture and its severity.


Common Signs and Symptoms of a Fibula Fracture

Tenderness, pain and swelling are some of the common symptoms associated with a fracture of the fibula. The other signs of a fracture include:

  • Bruising and bleeding in the leg
  • Not being able to bear weight on the fractured leg
  • Difficulty walking
  • A visible deformity such as the bone protruding out of the skin
  • Coldness and numbness in the foot
  • The foot and leg being tender to touch



If you have injured your leg and are experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, you should consult your doctor. Here are the steps of the diagnostic procedures that the doctor will perform to check if you have fractured your fibula.

Physical Examination: The first step of the diagnostic procedure is a physical examination. The doctor will conduct a thorough physical examination and will look for any noticeable deformities in the injured leg

X-Ray: The next step is to conduct an X-Ray of the injured leg to see the fracture and find out if there is a displacement of a bone or not

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): MRI generates a more detailed picture of the soft tissues and the interior of the bones. It is a detailed scan that helps in identifying the problem areas so they can be treated accordingly.

Computerized tomography, bone scans and other tests may also be conducted by the doctor to make a precise judgment regarding the fracture.


Treatment Options

Treatment of a fracture of the fibula depends on the severity of the break. It can be treated surgically or non-surgically after the doctor looks at the condition of your bone.


Non-Surgical Methods

If there is an isolated fibula fracture in the bone and there are no additional injuries, it can heal quickly and may not need a surgical procedure to be performed. This is the case with the fibula fractures that occur in the upper half of the fibula. Here are the non-surgical treatment options available for treating a fracture of the fibula.


Splint: A splint is suggested by the doctor to provide support and comfort to the fractured leg. It can be loosened and tightened which helps if there is a swelling in the leg. Other treatment may be done by the doctor once the swelling has subsided

The R.I.C.E. Method: Rest, ice, compression and elevate is also an effective method to reduce swelling and pain caused by a fracture of the fibula. If there are some minor fractures in the fibula, they can easily heal through this method. You will have to make sure that you do not put any weight on the injured leg and make use of mobility devices like a knee scooter by KneeRover as a traditional crutch alternative to keep the leg non-weight bearing.

Walking Boot or Brace: Your doctor may recommend you to wear one of these to make sure the healing process continues smoothly and there is no additional damage to the already injured leg.

If the symptoms do not get better within a couple of weeks, the doctor may resort to a surgical procedure.


Surgical Methods

You may not require a surgery in case of an isolate fibula fracture, however, if the tibia is also fractured, or there is an injury to the nearby ligaments and muscles, you will need a surgery. The surgeons will make use of plates and screws to put the fractured fibula back into place. Using metal plates and screws, the fragments of the bone are realigned and held in place. In some severe cases, a nail or screw may be inserted in the bone so that it can be kept in place to heal properly.


Recovery and Rehabilitation

The length of time taken for recovery depends on the severity of the fracture and how well you take care of it post-surgery. You can return to the normal activities in about 6 weeks if there is a minor fracture in the fibula. However, in case of multiple fractures where blood vessels, muscles, ligaments or tissues have been damaged, the recovery phase will be longer.

People find their legs to be weak as they have been in cast or a long period of time. The joints and muscles become stiff too. A physical therapy will be needed to make the legs work normally again. Your condition will be examined by the physical therapist and you will be judged based on:

  • Strength
  • Range of motion
  • Assessment of the surgical scar
  • Pain
  • How you walk and bear weight on the affected leg

When you are in the recovery phase, it is important to make sure your injured leg is completely non-weight bearing. This is because putting weight on the already injured leg can increase the time of recovery and can also injure the leg again leading to the possibility of another surgery. There are many options of mobility devices you can choose from when it comes to keeping your leg non-weight bearing.


Traditional Crutches

These are the most commonly used and affordable options when it comes to keeping weight off the injured leg. However, there are some problems associated with the use of these crutches. One of the most common complaints of people using crutches is pain in hands, elbows, under arms, arms and wrists. Since both your arms are occupied in handling the cutches, you will not be able to do most of the routine work. It also increases the risk of bearing weight on the injured leg which can increase the time of recovery.


Knee Scooters

One of the best traditional crutches alternative is a knee scooter or knee walker from KneeRover. It allows the user to comfortably bend their injured leg and place it on a comfortable platform at 90 degrees. The frame of the scooter is attached to wheels which make it easy to move with it, and it can be steered easily with handles. Not only is a knee scooter easy to use, it also doesn’t conflict with your recovery as it keeps weight off the injured leg.


Fractures of the fibula are a common injury of the leg and can range from moderate to severe. The treatment options and the recovery time depends on the severity of the fracture. It is important to take complete rest and also keep the injured leg non-weight bearing so that the recovery process can complete smoothly and there is no more damage to the bone and the tissues surrounding it. If taken care of well, you can heal completely and return to the normal activities of life like before.


 This is for informational purposes only, please remember to consult your doctor.  

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