Sticks and stones may break my bones...

Sep 23, 2016 by Dr. Ronald Auer

Much is true about the nursery rhyme, sticks and stones will break your bones, but so will falls, accidents and just plain bad luck. Children are particularly prone to fractures because of their growing skeleton and the presence of growth plates. In fact, 50% of boys will fracture a bone by the time they are 16 years old!

Fractures of the upper extremity (upper arm, forearm and hand) are by far the most common injuries we see in the orthopaedics office. Most of these occur from seemingly minor falls or spills during play or sporting events. Fractures of the wrist is a common injury that happens on a frequent basis during the early school years.

Most childhood fractures can be treated with casting, bracing or observation. This is because the child has growth plates that have the awesome potential to straighten and correct angulation of a “crooked” bone. The younger the child, the more angulation and displacement of a fracture the body can tolerate. Occasionally, fractures may be too displaced or angulated beyond what the body can tolerate and a manipulation may be required. A closed reduction or setting of the bone is where the fracture is manually straightened and placed into a cast or splint. This is an age old practice that has been used by physicians and surgeons for thousands of years.

In the rare event that the fracture cannot be straightened properly or the fracture fails to be treated in the cast, surgery may be required. This is an uncommon event in fractures of the arms and more frequent in the lower legs.

If you think your child may have a fracture, the most important thing to remember is to remain calm. Children do not experience pain from broken bones like adults. Their emotions and fears are usually based on their parent’s reactions. First aid can be administered with a simple splinting of the arm with a stiff or hard object. A simple wrapping of the arm with a large towel may also help the child not experience fear with the sight of a “bent” or “crooked” arm.

Luckily for children the pain and discomfort of the fracture is easily forgotten thanks to fast healing and well placed cast. Fractures in young children can heal as quickly as 4 weeks! It’s good to be young!

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