Safety and Training

Quick Camping Tip: How to Splint a Fractured Leg

Picture shows a drawing of how to splint a broken leg.

The bones most likely to fracture during simple falls, hiking accidents and sports injuries are the two below your knee; the tibia or shinbone—the larger of the two—and the fibula. Of all our bones in the body, the tibia is most likely to break. Generally a fracture in these two bones is not life threatening. However, if you suspect someone has broken his or her leg, seek medical attention so a doctor can X-Ray the injury and prescribe the best treatment.

Speaking from experience, you probably know if you have broken a bone. The pain is intense and you may even hear a cracking sound when the accident happens. Sometimes the fractured bone breaks the skin. Other breaks might not be as severe and the victim will experience only mild pain, swelling or bruising. Other symptoms of a fractured leg include an obvious deformation, twisting, unable to walk or put weight on the leg, or a dangling or awkward position of the foot.

Until you can get medical help, you can put a splint on the fractured leg in order to prevent further injury and restrict the movement of the leg. The slightest movement from broken leg bones could possibly cut an artery.

To splint a broken leg, follow these 10 simple steps:

  1. Have the victim lie down and help them elevate the leg if possible.
  2. Control bleeding by applying direct pressure on the wound with gauze or other soft cloth for 15 minutes.
  3. Once bleeding is controlled, put a bandage on the wound.
  4. Do not reposition the fracture.
  5. Using a SAM splint, secure the joints in the leg above and below the fracture. If you do not have a SAM splint, find two sticks, boards or even pillows will work, as long as they are at least the length of leg from the ankle to the top of the knee.
  6. Place the splints on either side of the leg.
  7. Secure the splint to the leg using ties. Begin by placing two strips of cloth under the leg—one at the top of the leg and one at the bottom of the leg right above the ankle. Bring the two ends of your cloth to the front of the leg and tie into a knot. Do this at the top and at the bottom.
  8. On the bottom of the leg, cross the ankle with the tie, bring it under the foot, and back around on top for support.
  9. After securing the splint, make sure you have not tied it so tight that it cuts off the patience’s circulation. Check for a pulse in their foot and ask them to wriggle or move their toes.
  10. Treat the victim for shock if necessary or apply an ice pack to the leg to help ease pain and swelling.

For more on treating basic accidents and injuries, read these blog posts:

Have you broken your leg out in the field? What did you do to treat it? Share your story with us in the comment section.


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Comments (6)

  1. Jared has a good point, but I am also thankful that I have stumbled upon your blog. This is very informative and helpful especially to avoid the injury from getting worse. First aid basics are quite handy especially on a camping trip.

  2. I appreciate the article but , I would like to point out a few things. If you spend any time away from places where help is readily available, please take a First aid course. If you have children, please take CPR.

    If there is heavy bleeding, you might need more then gauze and a bandage. Remove the shoe and check for felling, movement and circulation in the foot. Finding a pulse is difficult. Squeeze the large toe nail gently and watch the pink color return. If it takes more then 2-3 sec. or the foot is cool or cold there is a major emergency. This is assuming the foot has not been immersed in cold. A lower leg fracture ankle injury or knee injury is different form an upper leg injury. Nothing should be tied over the injury site.

  3. No need to dig out the anatomy text, Joe, just go back and reread Suzanne’s post. She stated that the tibia was the larger of the two bones BELOW the knee likely to break. Femur, or thigh bone, is the largest but is not located below the knee nor is it commonly broken.

  4. the biggest (and what do you mean as ‘biggest’, length, diameter weight?? Well for most of us upright folks that walk on one or two feet the Femur would be the one (1).. Humm maby I need to go back t my anatomy text.

  5. Hopefully, you’ll never need it but another great material for splinting is a newspaper or magazine. Even a daily paper for a small town will suffice if you open it up and fold it over lengthwise. Lay the injured limb in it and secure it as described above. Actually, I think it works better than sticks as it cradles the entire area.

    The only problem these days is finding a newspaper Perhaps if you can latch on to a couple of Kindles and some duct tape…

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