Broken Bone (Types of Bone Fractures)

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

Women with broken bone on her arm

Broken Bone Causes

What are three common causes of bone fractures?

  • Trauma: This includes falls, twisting injuries, sports injuries, car accidents, or even fights.
  • Medical conditions that weaken the bone: This includes osteoporosis, infections, osteogenesis imperfecta, chronic steroid use, or tumors that occur in bones.
  • Overuse injuries: Commonly seen in athletes, stress fractures (non-displaced hairline cracks in bone) result from repetitive motions and repeated stresses on the bone.

What is a broken bone (fracture)?

Bones make up the skeleton of the body. They allow us the ability to interact with our environment and lift out body up against gravity. Bones are attachment points for muscles which allows us to run, jump, sit, kneel, grasp, and lift. Bones also protect organs from potential damage, and the bone marrow (tissue inside of bones) is responsible for blood cell production.

Bones are the body's storage area for calcium. On a cellular level, calcium is always entering and exiting bone under the influence of the body's hormones. Parathyroid hormone increases calcium levels in the bloodstream, meaning, that it regulates it's release by bone and decreasing bone density. Calcitonin decreases blood calcium levels and helps restore calcium to bone. Calcium is needed in the blood stream to help muscle cells including the heart to function. Hormone levels will sacrifice calcium in bone to maintain blood calcium levels in a normal range. For that reason, calcium and Vitamin D are important to maintain calcium stores in the body.

What causes a broken bone?

When a bone has an outside force exerted upon it, like a blow or a fall, there is potential that it cannot withstand the amount of force and it breaks. That loss of integrity results in a fracture. It is important to remember that a fracture, break, or crack all describe the same situation, an injury to the bone where it has been damaged. One term is not more serious than another. Fracture, break, and crack all mean the same thing.

Depending upon the situation, the amount of force required may not be very great. People with osteoporosis, the bones lack calcium and are brittle, a minor injury or even gravity may create enough of a force to cause a vertebral compression fracture of the back or a hip fracture.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/12/2016

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