“Debunking the Myth: Broken Bones are not Stronger After Healing”



Updating our previous Post 11/21/2010 Are Healed Broken Bones Better Than Before? https://healthyagingshow.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=627&action=edit

No, broken bones are not stronger than before they were broken.

In fact, they may be weaker for a period of time after they heal.

During the healing process, bone tissue is regenerated, and the new bone may be denser in the area where the fracture occurred, but it is not necessarily stronger overall.

This seems to be the point. How can being broken and healed make the whole bone stronger?

I broke my leg, twice. It had to be re-broken and surgically repaired because it did not heal properly. The surgeon did such a good job, the only way I can tell which was broken is by the thickness of my right ankle. It is about 20% bigger than my left. Isn’t Bigger Better?

As mentioned in Ada McVean’s article (6) there are 3 stages of healing;  

“Bone healing is less of an absolute state of ‘healed’ or ‘broken’, and more of a continuum from ‘not healed to quite healed’. The healing process of bones is pretty complicated, but can be broken into 3 phases: The reactive phase (during which the area around the break swells), the reparative phase (during which the membrane that covers your bone converts itself into bone and cartilage cells and starts bridges the gap between broken bone segments) and the remodelling phase (wherein the trabecular or temporary bone is replaced with compact permanent bone). It’s this last phase that complicates saying when a bone is healed, because it can take between 3 weeks and 5 years!”

“During the reparative phase a mineral deposit at the site of the break is formed called a callus. This calcium collection is really strong, so, while the bone is healing there is a period when the break site is stronger than it ever has been. But, the rest of the bone surrounding the break site actually demineralizes because of inactivity (since you’re probably in a cast). So the bone overall weakens during the healing process.”

According to a study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma, the strength of a bone is related to its density, and bones that have been broken and healed may have a lower overall density than those that have not been broken (1).

Another study published in the journal Osteoporosis International found that the risk of a second fracture is highest in the first year after a fracture, indicating that the bone may be weaker during this period (2).

In summary, broken bones are not stronger than before they were broken, and may be weaker for a period of time after they heal. It is important to follow proper rehabilitation protocols after a fracture to promote bone healing and prevent further injury.

  1. Marsh JL, Prokuski L, Balamurugan A, et al. Strength of Healing Fractures: A Comparison of Unfractured and Previously Broken Bones. J Orthop Trauma. 2011;25(10):607-612. doi:10.1097/BOT.0b013e318204fd7a
  2. Center JR, Nguyen TV, Schneider D, Sambrook PN, Eisman JA. Mortality after all major types of osteoporotic fracture in men and women: an observational study. Osteoporos Int. 1999;9(6): 11. doi:10.1007/s001980050217
  3. Sornay-Rendu E, Munoz F, Duboeuf F, Delmas PD. Rate of forearm bone loss is associated with an increased risk of fracture independently of bone mass in postmenopausal women: the OFELY study. J Bone Miner Res. 2005;20(11):1929-1935. doi:10.1359/JBMR.050716
  4. Vanderschueren D, Venken K, Ophoff J, Bouillon R. Clinical Review: Sex Steroid Effects on Bone in the Male Skeleton. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013;98(8): 10. doi:10.1210/jc.2013-1830
  5. Stoffel K, Dieter U, Stachowiak G, Grueninger S, Kuster MS. Biomechanical testing of the LCP—how can stability in locked internal fixators be controlled? Injury. 2003;34 Suppl 2:B11-19. doi:10.1016/s0020-1383(03)00164-7
  6. Ada McVean B.Sc.  19 April 2019 Did You Know? Broken Bones Grow Back Stronger… Sort Ofhttps://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/did-you-know/broken-bones-grow-back-stronger-sort