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Why Do Bones Break?

Learn what causes fractures to occur


Updated July 16, 2014

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:

  • High-Energy Injury
    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."


  • Stress Injuries
    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.


  • Pathologic Injury
    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.

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