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What is the Femur?

By Bill C.
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The femur is the longest, thickest, and strongest bone in the human body. It extends from the pelvis to the top of the knee and typically measures about 20 inches (50 centimeters) in a person of average size. More accurately called the femur bone, this critical component of the human anatomy gives support to the entire upper body and ensures that energy is distributed downward to the foot. The bone is the location of most hip fractures, and is therefore typically one of the primary bones involved in hip replacement surgery.

One of several bones that enable the human body to contend with gravity, the femur plays an essential role in standing, walking, running, and jumping. Its shape, like a hollow cylinder, gives it the strength necessary to withstand a great deal of strain and bear heavy weight. The head of the bone is formed like a ball and fits into a deep socket in the pelvis called the acetabulum. Connecting the head to the thinner shaft section of bone is the femoral neck. Right below the neck, there is a bump on the outside called the greater trochanter. The large muscles of the buttocks attach to the femur at the bump.

Fractures of the femur typically occur in the neck of the bone. In young people, breaks usually happen as the result of a serious fall, blow, athletic injury, or vehicle accident. The cause in older people is can be those and can be accelerated by bone-weakening osteoporosis. Elderly people also sometimes experience femur fractures in an area slightly below the neck in what is called the intertrochanteric region. Breaks of the femur in either of these areas for both young and old are usually referred to as hip fractures and are normally considered to be serious injures. Healing of a fracture can take three to six months.

Risk factors for femoral fractures typically include engaging in high-contact sports like football or hockey, aging, onset of osteoporosis, decreased muscle mass, and suffering from diseases that often attack bones such as cancer. Several precautions can offer protection against femur fractures including avoiding the activities that involve high risk of major impact, keeping active to stay agile, working out to increase the muscle strength necessary to make falls less likely, eating foods that are high in calcium and vitamin D, wearing seat belts when driving or riding in a vehicle, and wearing the proper protective equipment and padding when participating in sports or engaging in other athletic activities.

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Discussion Comments
By anon979944 — On Nov 30, 2014

Does anyone know if the femur is actually stronger than concrete? I am trying to find an accurate source here, so please include any sources you used to find your information in your answers. Thanks!

By BoniJ — On Sep 12, 2011

Lots of children fracture their femur bone. Children love playing high up - in trees, on playground equipment, or wherever they can get. And sometimes they fall!

The bone is so large that doctors usually have to set it with screws and plates. In young ones, these fractures knit back together amazingly quick.

For those kids who participate in contact sports like football, they need good training and always a good warm-up before they start.

By lovealot — On Sep 11, 2011

The femur bone is very strong in young people, but as one ages, the density of the femur bone, as well as all bones, gradually lose their density. And if you have osteoporosis, the rate of loss of bone density progresses much faster.

People with osteoporosis of the femur bone or up in the hip bone need to take care of themselves to avoid a fall that breaks the top of their femur.

There are a number of ways to keep the density from getting worse. Exercise to strengthen muscles, work on balance, eat a balanced diet, and try to lead a less stressful life.

By cloudel — On Sep 10, 2011

My friend was in an awful car accident that fractured her femur bone. She had to have plates and screws put into the bone in order for it to heal.

She was put to sleep for the procedure, which I’m sure would have been incredibly painful to endure while conscious. The surgeon had to cut down to the femur to place the plates and screws.

She was allowed to walk around the next day. I was surprised that she got up that quickly. She went to a physical therapist for several weeks afterward, and she healed completely in about four months.

By Emilski — On Sep 10, 2011

I have never seen someone break their femur and I do not want to. I once saw someone demonstrate how strong a human femur was by them taking a sledgehammer to it without it breaking. I found this to be very impressive and showed how strong the bone is.

This being said something that strong is not supposed to break so I would have to imagine that the human body is not designed to heal things such as this bone. Although it will heal eventually I would think that the stress that is continually put on that bone would cause it problems once it heals and make the bone not as strong as before and also may take a very long time to heal, unlike a smaller bone that may be more prone to breakage.

By matthewc23 — On Sep 09, 2011

Considering that the femur is the strongest bone in the body it would have to take an incredible amount of force to break the bone, but when it does break it is always a major problem.

The femur is the strongest bone in the body for a reason. The femur supports the weight of the leg as well as attaches it to the hip bone, so this means that if something bad were to happen such as a severe fracture or break once the leg heals it will not be as strong as it was before and the person may have severe complications later in their life.

I know someone that fractured their femur and they walk with a permanent limp simply because of the fact that their leg is not as strong as it was before the break, but it did heal properly.

By titans62 — On Sep 08, 2011

@jcraig - I used to film for a college football team and I once saw a kid take a hit and break his femur. I saw through the camera the bone sticking through the skin at the top of his leg and I could not imagine it would have been a pretty sight (I could only see the top of the bone sticking up, pushing his pants legs up.)

I heard that he was out for the season and had to quit football after this injury due to the long rehabilitation and the time it took for his leg to heal. Considering that this is the strongest bone in the human body, it has to take a massive amount of force to break it, thus it should come as no surprise that it would take a very long time to heal, when the bone suffers a very very serious break.

By jcraig — On Sep 08, 2011

I have heard that the femur bone is stronger than concrete. I do not know that if this is said in hyperbole or not but I have always heard this saying and believed it. This being said I have to wonder how much force it would take to break the femur.

I have seen football games where someone has broken a femur but have never saw something like the bone sticking through the skin. This leads me to believe that it is incredibly hard to break the femur beyond a fracture, unlike the tibia or fibula.

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