Brooke Shields is recovering after breaking her femur and is learning to walk again, she revealed on Instagram. The shock announcement came after more than two weeks of silence on the social media platform. Her followers, fans and friends alike, expressed their concern and shared words of support.
“Courage… it’s in your blood,” wrote actress Glenn Close, while model Helena Christensen commented, “I know this is a tough one.” Sharon Stone wrote, “I can bring food,” reminding us that celebrities are really just the same as everybody else and need their friends when times are tough.
Shield, 55, didn’t give any details about her accident. But the video clip she posted on Instagram shows her walking on crutches down a hospital corridor. She captioned the clip, “Broke my femur. Beginning to mend. No matter what your challenge is, make a positive choice, for yourself, to move forward.” In the video, she explained that she’s only allowed to put about 20% of her full body weight on her broken bone.
“The goal is to bend your knee each time like a little bit, just so you’re not dragging it or hitching up your hip,” she said, about her recovery.
The femur (thigh bone) is the longest and strongest bone in the human body. The long, straight part of the bone is known as the femoral shaft, and a break at any point on this length of bone is called a femoral shaft fracture.
Usually, it’s not difficult to know that you’ve broken your femur, as it typically causes immediate, severe pain. Also, you won’t be able to put weight on the injured leg, and it may look deformed (the injured leg could be shorter than the non-injured leg and possibly crooked).
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What causes a femur break?
It usually takes a lot of force to break this large, strong bone, and motor vehicle collisions are the number one cause of femur fractures, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS),
“Femur fractures in young individuals usually occur due to high-energy events like car accidents and ski crashes,” Taylor Dunphy, MD, surgeon and sports medicine specialist with Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Orange County, California, tells Health. In the elderly, who have weaker bones, femur fractures are usually caused by a low-energy event. In this age group, a fall from standing may be enough to cause a femur shaft fracture.
A femur fracture can also be caused by stress fractures in younger patients or chronic osteoporosis medications, aka bisphosphonates, in older patients.
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How is a broken femur treated?
“The femur is crucial to weight bearing/walking, so most fractures require surgery,” Dr. Dunphy says. The location of the fracture determines what that involves—the femoral shaft is divided into thirds: distal, middle, and proximal.
“A distal fracture will require a plate and screws, while a proximal fracture will require an intramedullary nail,” Dr. Dunphy explains.
If it’s a stress fracture, it may be possible to avoid surgery and treat it with a period of partial or non-weight bearing activity. But the AAOS says this type of break almost always requires surgery to heal, followed by intensive rehab therapy.
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How long is the recovery period?
After surgery, the femur usually heals within three months, Dr. Dunphy says. Again, it depends on the type of implant used to fix the fracture. With an intramedullary nail, you can walk on the leg right away (with crutches). But if you have a plate and screws, you need to stay off the leg until it’s fully healed.
In some cases, a longer recovery period is necessary. Per the AAOS, if it’s an open or compound fracture (when the bone breaks in such a way that bone fragments stick out through the skin or a wound penetrates down to the broken bone), there’s a much greater risk of damage to the surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments. An open fracture also has a higher risk for complications, such as infections, and takes a longer time to heal.
What’s the long-term prognosis?
Although a broken femur is a serious matter, a near full recovery can be expected when the fracture has healed and the leg is strengthened with rehab. “This often takes six to 12 months, depending on the age of the patient,” Dr. Dunphy says.
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