Three Leg Bones The femur, the tibia, and the fibula

Editor's Note: When you see these three dots surrounded by a gray rectangle — 1 — you can click on it to get further information about the topic. Click a second time, and the message goes away.

This article was edited and updated on March 22, 2018.

The Femur

Located in the upper leg, the thigh bone is known as the femur; it is the bone closest to the center of the body. It allows us to walk, run, and jump.

The head of the femur rests inside the acetabulum in the pelvic bone; together, they form the hip joint. The distal end of the femur joins with the tibia and the patella to form the knee joint.

The femur, or thigh bone, is the longest, heaviest, and strongest bone in the body. It supports the entire body's weight during most activities; the muscles of the hip and thigh are exceptionally strong as they must move the leg. Structurally, the femur is classified as a long bone.

For more information about the hip joint, see The Hip Joint. For more information about the knee joint, see The Knee Joint.

The Tibia and the Fibula

The tibia — often referred to as the shinbone — is next to the fibula on the medial side of the leg, closer to the centre-line; however, it is larger and stronger than the fibula, and it connects the knee to the ankle bones. 2

The fibula — or calf bone — is connected above and below the tibia. It is the smaller bone of the two and the slenderest of all long bones. Its upper extremity is small, and is placed below the level of the knee joint which excludes it from that joint. At the lower extremity, it projects below the tibia and forms part of the ankle joint.

Why and how do we keep our bones strong?

Our bones have many tasks. They:

If not taken care of, bones can become weak and break. Broken bones are painful and surgery is sometimes needed. Once broken, there can be long-lasting health problems.

There are things you can do to keep your bones healthy and strong:

How do we exercise our bones?

Bone is living tissue; it responds to exercise by becoming stronger. Research indicates that when young people exercise regularly, they achieve greater peak bone mass than those who do not.

Bone mass peaks for everyone sometime during the third decade of our life; after that, we begin to lose bone. Exercising allows us to maintain muscle strength, coordination, and balance — and those things help us to prevent falls and fractures.

See also: Exercise and Osteoporosis

Because you are working against gravity, weight-bearing exercises provide the most bang for your buck. Some examples are: weight training, power walking, hiking, climbing stairs, tennis, dancing, and jogging.

One of THE most important, yet simple, exercises to do for bone strength is the squat. A deadlift squat involves placing weights in both hands with arms fully extended down. The weights and arms remain in that position while you do as many squats as you wish. You can also do squats without the weights. You can also limit the depth of your squat from 1/4 to 1/2 to full.

Proof that bones can heal

In 1962, my husband joined the Navy. He was 19 years old and ready to live on his own. He became a corpsman and spent two years on a Naval Base in Japan. Just as his enlistment was nearly finished, the Vietnam War began heating up and more troops were ordered into Vietnam. As a corpsman, Bob was sent to Field Medical School for combat medical training and he was then a Marine. His unit landed in Vietnam in late January of 1966 and on March 5, 1966, he was shot in the leg.

On the left is the broken femur, taken days after Bob was shot. On the right is the healed femur, taken about nine months later.

The x-rays above, taken nine months apart, reveal how a bone can heal and grow back together. When a bone doesn't do any more weight-bearing, it loses calcium and fades away; that is what has happened to that small broken piece. 3 If you wish to read about Bob's complete war experience, you can see his webpage here: 37 Days in Vietnam — a Navy Corpsman with the U.S. Marines.

For more information related to the leg bones or other bones of the body, see also:

I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.

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  1. These three dots behave exactly like a footnote. Click on them and you will get more information about the topic. 

  2. The tibia is connected to the fibula by a special membrane which forms a joint that has little movement. 

  3. The small triangular object is a piece of shrapnel.