Broken bones are common injuries. In fact, the average person will sustain two fractures over the course of their lifetime. Is there a difference between a fracture and a break? Despite the common perception that these words have different meanings, they, in fact, mean exactly the same thing. A fracture and a break are the same!
Fractures occur for one of three reasons:
In high-energy injuries, bone is broken because the force acting on it was significant. These injuries would include falls, car accidents and sports injuries. These injuries are often called "traumatic fractures."
A stress fracture is due to repetitive microtrauma to the bone. Over time, the body cannot keep up with the forces acting on the bone, and a fracture eventually occurs. This is not a sudden injury, but gradually worsens over time.
In a pathologic fracture, the bone is abnormally weakened by some problem. Causes of pathologic fractures include osteoporosis, tumors and infections.
Boden BP, Osbahr DC "High-Risk Stress Fractures: Evaluation and Treatment" J. Am. Acad. Ortho. Surg., November/December 2000; 8: 344 - 353.