Common Types of Trauma Related Fractures

Common Types of Trauma Related Fractures

There are two basic types of bone fractures: stress fractures and traumatic fractures. Stress fractures are tiny cracks in a bone caused by repetitive force (and often overuse), such as during long-distance running.

Traumatic fractures are a painful injury that occur when a significant force hits your body. For example, an impact from a fall, a motor vehicle accident, or a tackle during a football game can result in a fracture.

Common Types

Traumatic fractures may be nondisplaced or displaced, referring to the alignment of the bone.

  • Nondisplaced: Also known as a stable fracture, the broken ends of the bone line up and are barely out of place. They are less likely to need surgery to repair, and may often be healed with nonoperative treatments such as immobilization with a boot, brace or cast.
  • Displaced: If two or more pieces of broken bone have come out of alignment, it is a displaced fracture. A displaced fracture is more likely to require surgical treatment, especially if it is a comminuted fracture (where the bone shatters into three or more pieces) or a compound fracture.

In severe cases, a displaced fracture may include a comminuted fracture (where the bone shatters into three or more pieces) or a compound fracture. In a compound fracture (or open fracture), pieces of the bone may pierce the skin. The bone may or may not be visible in the wound. Compound fractures have a higher risk for complications such as infections, and involve more extensive damage to the surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

The classification of a fracture depends on factors such as the direction of the break, how it happens, and the number of fractured parts.

Fractures Diagnosed by Pattern

Some fractures are diagnosed by the direction of the break or its shape (fracture pattern). If the fracture breaks in a straight line across the bone, it may be classified as one of these types:

  • Transverse fracture: If the break goes straight across the bone in a horizontal line, it is transverse.
  • Oblique fracture: In this type of fracture, the break goes across the bone at an angle.
  • Vertical fracture: Also called a longitudinal fracture, this term refers to breaks that happen along the length of the bone.

If the fracture does not break in a straight line across the bone, it may be classified as one of these types:

  • Spiral fracture: This type of fracture usually occurs when there is a forceful extension, such as a twisting injury that causes an ankle fracture. The fracture spirals around the bone like stripes on a candy cane.
  • Comminuted fracture: This term refers to a bone that is shattered into three or more pieces. These fractures are almost always caused by a major trauma such as a vehicle collision or a fall from a great height, and are very serious in large bones.
  • Segmental fracture: Fractures are classified as segmental when a bone is broken in two different places, leaving a segment of your bone totally separated by the breaks.

Fractures Diagnosed by Cause

Fracture can result from a variety of reasons, and may be named or classified by what causes them. In addition to traumatic fractures, which occur from accidental causes, a fracture may be diagnosed as an insufficiency fracture or a stress fracture.

Insufficiency fractures occur when the bone is weakened from a condition such as osteoporosis and the bone is no longer able to handle the normal stress of weight bearing. Stress fractures, sometimes called hairline fractures, are associated with overuse and are common among athletes.

Fractures Diagnosed by Location

Many fractures are classified by where they happen in your body, such as wrist, ankle, and hip fractures. A fracture may fall into more than one category, so a location-based fracture could additionally be diagnosed by pattern or cause. For example, a patient might have a spiral fracture of the femur.


Patients of any age can experience orthopedic trauma and fractures. A trauma related fracture is a serious injury that occurs when extreme force is applied to the bone, such as during a car accident or life-threatening fall, or as a result of a direct blow.

Since most trauma related fractures are caused by accidents, it may not be possible to prevent fractures. You can reduce your risk of injury by increasing your body’s levels of vitamin D, exercising regularly to keep your bones strong, and getting treatment if you have a condition that weakens your bones (osteoporosis).