The Parents’ Guide To Childhood Fractures

As you and your spouse watch your infant crawl across the floor, you have visions of your child one day riding a bike, playing with the neighborhood kids, and participating in school sports. Then it dawns on you that all of these activities come with the risk of broken bones. Kids are resilient and they bounce back quickly from injury. Learn what to expect if your child breaks a bone and continue imagining them being an active kid.

Type of Childhood Fractures

According to the National Institutes of Health, 30 percent of children experience a broken bone before they turn 17 and more than 66 percent of the fractures are due to bicycle riding. The odds are pretty good that you'll see some type of fracture in your child as they grow up. There are two categories of fractures you could see:

  • Simple fracture - Also called a closed fracture, this is where the bone breaks but does not come through the skin.
  • Compound fracture - Also called an open fracture, this is where the bone breaks and comes through the skin to create a visible wound.

In children, you're most likely to see simple fractures. The most common types of fractures seen in children include:

  • Greenstick - This is where a bone is fractured only part of the way through, much like bending a green stick until it begins to crack.
  • Transverse - This is a fracture all the way across the bone.
  • Spiral - This is a fracture that occurs when the bone is twisted around until it breaks in a spiral shape.

The greenstick and spiral fractures are most often simple fractures. The transverse fracture may be either simple or compound.

Differences Between Children and Adult Bones

There are three primary differences in your child's bones from yours that affect the treatment and healing of bones:

  • Your child's bones heal much faster than your bones. During their growth years, there is a lot more activity to produce new bone cells, making the bones longer and more dense.
  • Your child's bones are much softer than your bones. They tend to bend further before breaking, with greenstick fractures appearing more often than complete fractures.
  • At the end of your child's long bones are special areas called growth plates. New bone growth happens rapidly from these areas. A fracture through a growth plate, while the child is still growing, can result in abnormal growth of that bone due to damage to the growth plate mechanism.

Symptoms of a Broken Bone

If you find your child lying on the ground next to their bicycle, holding their arm and crying, look for these signs of a possible fracture:

  • Pain and swelling in the area (a wound may or may not exist)
  • Deformity of the area where there is a fracture
  • Weakness in the limb and a reluctance of the child to move it

What to Do Next

Your child will be in pain, and may be in shock and a little scared. Secure the broken limb so it doesn't move by wrapping a towel or blanket around it. Move your child to a comfortable place and take a closer look at the limb. If you suspect a break, contact your doctor. If the limb is deformed, do not attempt to straighten the limb out. Small pieces of tissue can become lodged in the fracture, making treatment more difficult.

Continue comforting your child and when they are more relaxed, take them to your doctor or emergency room.

Treatment of Your Child's Fracture

Your doctor will take x-rays to determine the extent of the fracture. Many childhood broken bones are treated by setting the bone fragments back in their natural position, if the broken ends have moved apart, then applying a cast to hold the limb secure while the bone heals.

In some cases of severe breaks, or where the fracture occurs through the growth plate, orthopaedic surgery at a clinic like Greater Dallas Orthopaedics, PLLC, may be required to secure the bone fragments or growth plate with plates and screws to hold them in place as they heal.

Be prepared for a potential broken bone in your child. It may be a little frightening at first, but by the day after the injury, your child will be more interested in getting their cast signed by their friends, with little worry about the accident.