Synonyms: Broken bone

Medical Specialties: Emergency medicine, Orthopedics, Surgery

Clinical Definition

A fracture is a condition in which the alignment of a bone in the skeletal system is broken or disrupted. Fractures are usually caused by excessive force on the bone due to trauma. Individuals with medical conditions, such as osteoporosis, that weakens the bones are at an increased risk of bone fractures. There are several types of breaks, which are categorized according to the severity of damage to the tissue around the bone and the direction of the fracture.  

In Our Own Words

A fracture is a broken bone. Most fractures occur when too much force is placed on the bone. Some medical conditions make a fracture more likely to occur. For example, osteoporosis is a medical condition that causes the bones to become weak, which means it takes less force to break them.


There are different categories of fractures depending on if the bone has pierced the skin or not. If the bone breaks all the way through the skin, it’s an open fracture. Joe Theismann, quarterback for the Redskins in the 1980s, suffered an open fracture that now lives in infamy during a nationally televised game of Monday Night Football. Broken bones are also classified according to the direction of the break (transverse, oblique). 

Relevant Conditions
Common Types
  • Open fracture
  • Closed fracture
  • Transverse, oblique, spiral fracture
  • Pathologic fracture
  • Stress (hairline) fracture
Side Effects
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Limited movement
Share this article
  • American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. "Fractures (Broken Bones)." Accessed September 2013.
  • Cleveland Clinic. "Fractures." Accessed September 2013.
  • Cedars-Sinai. "Broken Bones or Fractures." Accessed September 2013.
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