Broken Femur (Thigh Bone) | Symptoms & Causes

What are the different types of fractures?

One way to classify fractures in the femur is by the location of the break. A femur fracture can occur at several places in this long bone, including:

  • proximal femur fracture (hip fracture): a break in the uppermost part of thigh bone next to the hip joint.
  • femoral shaft fracture: a break in the bone shaft. This type of fracture is very serious and almost always requires surgical correction.
  • supracondylar femur fracture: a break just above the knee joint. This type of fracture is an uncommon break, especially in children.
  • distal femur fracture: a break in the top part of the knee joint.  A distal femur fracture can extend into the knee joint and disturb knee cartilage and growth plates. If the bone pierces through the skin (open fracture) there is a high chance that there will be damage to the muscles, tendons and ligaments.

Learn more about common fractures in children

What causes broken femurs?

A bone break happens when there’s more force applied to the bone than it can absorb. These breaks in bones can occur from falls, trauma or a direct blow.

Most childhood fractures result from:

  • falling, as from stairs or jungle gym
  • trauma (moderate to severe) that may happen in a car accident or while they’re participating in contact sports.

Femur fractures in infants (0-1 year old) are unusual, but can occur:

  • in babies born with a condition that causes weak bones, such as osteogenesis imperfecta
  • following a very difficult delivery
  • in cases of child abuse

Certain risk factors may also increase a child’s chances of breaking a femur. 

The signs and symptoms of a broken femur in children include:

  • pain or swelling in the thigh, possibly with bruising
  • difficulty moving the leg
  • inability to stand or walk
  • deformity (abnormal shape) of the leg
  • in severe fractures, the bone may come through the skin and be visible