An acute fracture of the fibula bone in the lower leg occurs as a result of a direct trauma or impact to the leg or ankle. Stress fractures can also occur from overuse or repetitive impacts.
Acute fibula fractures
Symptoms include a sudden acute pain in the lower leg with rapid swelling usually following an impact, collision or fall. The athlete will most likely limp or be unable to bear weight on the fractured leg. There will be tenderness around the site of the fracture. In more severe cases there will be deformity where bones have been displaced.
It is possible an athlete can continue to compete with a broken fibula as in the case with American athlete Manteo Mitchell who completed the first leg of a recent Olympic 4x400m heat in a split time of 45 seconds, having broken his fibula within the first half of the race.
Stress fracture symptoms
Symptoms of fibula stress fractures tend to include a gradual build-up of pain on the outside of the lower leg which eases with rest and increases with activity. It may be tender over the point of the fracture and there may be an aching or throbbing pain at night. See fibula stress fracture for more detailed information.
Fibula fracture explained
The Fibula is the smaller of the two shin bones on the outside of the lower leg. It can be felt as the bony lump on the outside of the ankle called the lateral malleolus and runs up the outside of the leg to the knee. Its purpose is mainly to provide a surface for muscles to attach to whereas the large Tibia bone bears most of the weight.
Traumatic fractures of the Fibula can occur with a severe ankle sprain. An avulsion fracture happens when a ligament pulls part of the bone away. A fracture of the bony bit on the outside of the ankle known as the malleolus is called a Pott's fracture.
Stress fractures of the fibula do sometimes occur, although these are far less common than stress fractures of the tibia as the fibula is not a load bearing bone. They are more likely to be caused by repetitive muscle traction forces on the bone.