Common Fractures in Children
Whether they’re running around with their friends, engaging in their favorite sports, or even playing around at home, active children occasionally sustain injuries that result in bone fractures. A fracture of the bone is the same as a broken bone. Children’s bones are still growing and are softer and more flexible than adult bones, but they are still prone to breaking when injured. Read on to find out about the most common fractures in children.
Common fractures in children
The most common fractures in children are the following:
× Forearm and elbow fractures: When children play around and fall on the ground, a common reflex is to stretch their arms to catch themselves. When the impact is too strong for the bones to absorb, a fracture occurs. A fall on the outstretched hand often causes a fracture in the wrist area. If they fall directly on their elbow, an elbow fracture is more likely.
× Ankle fractures: These are very frequent in children who play sports, and are a consequence of an unexpected ankle twist.
However, due to the elasticity of children’s bones, there are times when bones don’t completely break, causing an incomplete fracture. The most common types of incomplete fractures that occur in children include:
× Buckle fractures: These occur when the bone compresses upon itself and crumples on one side, causing pain, swelling, pressure, and bruising.
× Greenstick fractures: These occur when the bone bends on one side and causes tension on that area. One side of the bone may break, but the other side of the bone is intact.
Fractures in toddlers
Another common fracture in children is a toddler fracture. It is typically an undisplaced fracture — the bone stays in place — that occurs between the ages of nine months and three years. As these fractures are usually caused by recent or increasing ambulation, the injured bone is usually the tibia, one of the bones in the leg below the knee. The symptoms are not very fracture-specific, but you may notice that your toddler refuses to stand on their feet or is more irritable than normal. As to treatment, a toddler fracture may need a splint or an above-knee cast for a few weeks.
Treatment of a broken bone should aim to restore the bone’s normal function, prevent complications, speed up healing, and control the pain. To alleviate your child’s pain, their doctor may prescribe medication. To protect the injured area, your child might need to use a cast or, in simpler treatments (like a buckle fracture) a splint. If the bone fracture is more severe, your child might need to undergo surgery to secure the broken bone back into place.
Because children are growing, they possess growth plates. Occasionally, a fracture may occur in a growth plate and not easily visualized on x-rays. If the x-ray shows no fracture, but there is still pain and swelling in the area of concern, a growth plate fracture must be considered. Further evaluation is warranted.
Bone fractures in children are a common occurrence. If your child breaks a bone, seek medical assistance immediately, but don’t panic — bone fractures usually heal in a matter of weeks with adequate treatment. Moreover, if a splint or cast is needed, remember that most children enjoy having a little something to show off to their friends!
Confirmation of a fracture requires an x-ray. Most fractures can be treated at your local pediatric urgent care, if they have x-ray capabilities on site, and do not require an emergency room visit. If you have any questions about fracture care or diagnosis, reach out to your pediatrician or local pediatric urgent care.