A broken thighbone (femur) — the strongest bone in your body — usually is obvious because it takes so much force to break. But fractures of your shinbone (tibia) — the major weight-bearing bone in your lower leg — and the bone that runs alongside your tibia below your knee (fibula) may be more subtle.

Signs and symptoms of a broken leg may include:

  • Severe pain, which may worsen with movement
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Obvious deformity or shortening of the affected leg
  • Inability to walk

Toddlers or young children who break a leg may simply stop walking, even if they can't explain why. Unexplained crying may be the only other sign.

When to see a doctor

If you or your child has any signs or symptoms of a broken leg, see a doctor right away. Delays in diagnosis and treatment can result in problems later, including poor healing.

Seek emergency medical attention for any leg fracture from a high-impact trauma, such as a car or motorcycle accident. Fractures of the thighbone are severe, potentially life-threatening injuries that require emergency medical services to help protect the area from further damage and to transfer you safely to your local hospital.

Jul. 07, 2011