You should suspect a fracture if:
• You or your child heard a snap or grinding noise during the injury .
• The injury is swollen, bruised or tender.
• Your child cannot bear weight on the injury, touch it, press on it or move it without pain.
• The injured part looks deformed or bone pokes through the skin.
You might have seen your child take a hundred tumbles resulting in nothing more than a few scrapes or bruises, but this spill from his snowboard looked — and sounded — different. Sure enough, in addition to torn jeans and bloodied knees, your child’s arm seems to veer in an odd direction, a strong clue that it may be broken. Most broken bones, or fractures, occur from falls, car crashes or other trauma like colliding with another player during sports. Kids are more likely to break their wrists, forearms or upper arms because it’s a natural instinct to use the arms to stop a fall. Forearm fractures account for 40 percent to 50 percent of all childhood bone breaks.
Hennepin County Medical Center orthopedic surgeon Gudrun Mirick, MD, says, “Forearm and elbow fractures in kids are very common. Most can be treated with just a cast for 3-4 weeks, though some do need surgery to prevent the bones from moving while healing takes place. If treated promptly and correctly, very few kids have any long lasting problems.”
Although common, fractures can be scary for both kids and parents. If you suspect your child may have a broken bone, here’s what to do: Determine whether you need emergency help. All fractures will need medical attention, but call for emergency help if:
• The injury involves the head, neck, back, pelvis or upper leg.
• There’s heavy bleeding.
• Bone has pierced the skin.
• An extremity of the injured arm or leg, such as a toe or finger, is numb or blue at the tip.
• You can’t transport your child safely by car because he or she can’t sit upright or use appropriate safety seats and seat belts.
Remove clothing from the injured part. Use scissors to cut clothing away; don’t try to pull the limb out of clothes.
Stop any bleeding. Use a sterile bandage or clean cloth and apply constant pressure to the wound. Keep your child lying down and don’t wash the wound or poke the bone back into the skin.
Make a splint. Keep the limb in the position you find it. Place soft padding around the injury and then something firm (like a board or rolled-up newspaper) next to it. Make sure the splint extends past the joints above and below the injury. Keep it in place with first-aid tape.
Apply cold packs. Wrap ice in a towel and place it on the injured area to help control swelling and pain until help arrives.
At the hospital, doctors will X-ray the injury to evaluate the fracture and realign the bones if necessary. Most broken bones simply require a cast and time to heal, ranging from three to six weeks. Before you know it, your child will be back to playing as usual — hopefully minus the falls.