Difference between Fracture and a break

Fracture vs. Sprain

We’ve established that there isn’t a lick of difference between breaking a bone or fracturing it, but there is a big difference between a sprain and a fracture. Not that you could tell without an X-ray.

Here’s an example using the ankle. Your ankle is made of three bones—tibia, fibula, and talus. You can break any of them. If you do, technically you have a broken tibia (or talus or fibula). You can also stretch or tear the ligaments and tissues holding all three bones together; that’s called a sprain.

They both hurt—a lot. Without an X-ray, we can’t tell whether it’s a broken bone or a sprained ankle. As far as first aid goes, it doesn’t matter. Both are treated the same.

Healthcare professionals also say it wrong all the time. They say broken ankle when they are talking about a broken bone near the ankle joint. It’s a shortcut. If you are confused by anything your healthcare provider says, ask for clarification.

Fractures and breaks are bone problems. Sprains are injuries to the ligaments, which are the thick bands of cartilage that attach bone to bone (often at a joint). You can break a bone, but you can’t break a ligament. However, you can tear a ligament.

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