Tibial Plateau Fractures

Tibial plateau fractures are serious injuries that are often the result of an athletic accident. When you hear this term, it’s referring to a break or a crack above the shin bone in the knee area. It’s also commonly referred to as a proximal tibia fracture.

Experiencing a tibial plateau fracture can impair your everyday routine and require you to avoid any weight-bearing (on the injured knee) while you’re recovering.

Because this is a serious injury, it’s imperative that you seek immediate medical attention if you experience this. Failure to do so can lead to more serious problems down the road such as compartment syndrome.

Tibial Plateau Fracture Causes

The common causes of a tibia fracture include:

  • Falling from a higher elevation
  • Sports-related injury
  • Motorvehicle accident
  • Direct force to the outer part of the knee
  • Osteoporosis, bone deficiency, or other medical conditions that cause weakness in bones
  • Age-related weaknesses

Having a tibia fracture has several risk factors including loss of mobility and range, arthritis, limb damage. Furthermore, there are several types of tibial plateau fractures that can have various impacts on your body.

Types Of Tibial Plateau Fractures

In general, there are four kinds of fractures:

  • Displaced: The bone snaps into two or more pieces and becomes unaligned with the joint.
  • Non-displaced: In a non-displaced fracture, the bone cracks part or all of the way through and remains aligned with the joint.
  • Transverse: A transverse fracture is a perpendicular break along the bone.
  • Comminuted: Comminuted fractures means the bone shatters into a bunch of pieces.

That being said, in 1979, Joseph Schatzker, MD, came up with six classifications for a tibial fracture that medical professionals use all over the world today. This method is known as the Schatzker Classification and helps doctors properly diagnose a tibia fracture.

The six classifications are:

  • Schatzker l: Lateral tibial plateau fracture without depression.
    Found mostly in younger people: makes up 6% of all tibial fractures.
  • Schatzker ll: Lateral tibial plateau fracture with depression.
    Most common: makes up 75% of all tibial fractures and can cause damage to the ACL and MCL.
  • Schatzker lll: Focal depression of articular surface with no associated split.
    Most commonly found in older people: makes up 36% of all tibial fractures.
  • Schatzker lV: Medial tibial plateau fracture, with or without depression.
    Makes up 10% of all tibial fractures.
  • Schatzker V: Bicondylar tibial plateau fracture.
    Make up 3% of all tibial fractures and can damage the ACL and collateral ligaments.
  • Schatzker Vl: Tibial plateau fracture with diaphyseal discontinuity.
    Makes up 20% of all tibial fractures.

Tibial Plateau Fracture Symptoms

Many people who have experienced a tibial plateau fracture have complained about pain, swelling, an inability to walk or add pressure to their leg. Other symptoms can include:

  • Paleness due to a lack of blood flow
  • Clear deformities in the structure of the knee
  • Pain in the joint without movement
  • Numbness in the foot
  • Bruising
  • Bone is poking through the skin
  • Inability to bend and move leg
  • Compartment syndrome

Tibial Plateau Fracture Treatment

A tibial plateau fracture can either be treated surgically or non-surgically depending on the classification. For minor classifications, treatment can be as simple as keeping your knee elevated and iced, taking pain medications, or staying off your knee until it has time to heal.

Other non-surgical treatment options can involve adding compression to boost blood flow or wearing a knee brace.

It’d also help to incorporate some strengthening exercises like squats and leg lifts to minimize the risk of having another fracture.

On the other hand, surgery is needed in most cases. Most of the time, screws and plates will be inserted and left in the knee to realign it with the joint. This is known as an internal fixation.

Another surgical method is where the bone is realigned and held together with screws and plates that are outside of the body. This procedure is referred to as external fixation.

A fasciotomy if compartment syndrome is present.

Tibial Plateau Fracture Recovery

The tibia is a major weight-bearing area that needs to be properly taken care of. For this reason, it can take several months to recover from a tibial plateau fracture. It’s very important that the fracture heals before you put any weight on your leg. It can take about three months to get back to gradual weight-bearing.

Complete recovery from a tibial plateau fracture can take about six months. Physical therapy will be required to ensure that your knee is healing correctly and in a timely manner.

Rushing the recovery process can lead to re-fracturing the bone, damaging the hardware, or nonunion of the realignment. This can lead to several painful, long-term bone disorders such as arthritis.

However, everyone is different, and your doctor will talk with you about which recovery route will work best for you and will minimize the risk of problems in the future.


A tibial plateau fracture takes place above the shin and prevents you from adding weight to your leg.

If you experience a tibia fracture, you should seek immediate medical attention to keep the situation from getting worse. Also, follow the doctor’s orders and take all the time that’s needed to heal.

Rushing the recovery process can lead to instability in the knee and bone disorder problems as you get older.

Call your doctor right away if you think you have a tibial plateau fracture.

At SPORT, we will identify the source of your pain and then utilize state-of-the-art therapeutic techniques that focus on restoring your range of motion.

Depending on the specific condition and its severity, these treatment options may include physical therapy, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, slings and supports, cortisone shots, or surgery.

If you have an acute or chronic shoulder or elbow injury that needs medical attention, call SPORT at (469) 200-2832 to arrange a consultation or you can request one online. Hurt today? We can arrange a same-day urgent care visit to ensure you get fast, effective relief.

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