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two hockey players going after a puck

Fibula Fracture

It’s common for a physical therapist to work with patient who have suffered from a fracture. One type of fracture is a fibula fracture, which occurs in the one of the bones in the lower leg. We spoke with physical therapist Benjamin Maschke, PT, DPT, OCS about what a patient can expect during rehabilitation of a fibula fracture.

What is the fibula?

The fibula is one of the two long bones on the lower leg, the fibula is the smaller of the two bones

 What is a fibula fracture?

When the fibular is fractured it means there is a crack or break through the bone from some sort of excessive force placed through that area of the body.

 Is this a common injury seen by physical therapists?

Yes. A physical therapist will often see patients with different types of fractures involving the lower leg and ankle.

When a patient comes in with a fracture, we’re not just looking at the joint or area of interest that was fractured. Rather we look at the whole person and how they move and working on the coordination of all those body parts as they are returning to sport. If we only focus on the ankle, we may miss other areas that could hold the patient back or prevent them from returning back to their sport or activity.

Is a fibula fracture more prevalent with certain types of athletes?

This type of injury is seen most often in contact-type sports (i.e. hockey, football), where there are high forces and potential for trauma. It’s not an injury typically seen in an overuse-type sport or repetitive-type sport (i.e. baseball, running).

 What is physical therapy like for a patient?

First and foremost, we need to make sure the bone is healing properly and that happens in coordination with the surgeon or physician working with the patient. Once clearance is given to place more stresses through the bone we’ll start working on progressive strengthening, balance and coordination. As we start to increase the intensity on those types of activity then we can start focusing on more sport-specific types of activities to get them back to their sport or activity of choice.

 What is the rehab time frame?

The amount of time a patient will need physical therapy will vary from patient to patient. It depends on how the fracture heals, and also the patients goals and expectations. During that time frame the patient may be immobilized, or not moving as much, causing them to loose a certain amount of strength.  It often takes weeks to months to build that strength back up to full power.

The key with physical therapy is trying to do as much as you can while respecting integrity of the fracture site, even in that protective phase to help maintain as much strength as possible.

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