Broken or Fractured: How to Tell the Difference

Posted on: April 11th, 2013 by Laura No Comments

boneWhen accidents happen, generally mom is the first one on the scene. We are full time on-call physicians. But most of us don’t come equipped with a medical degree. When your kids play sports, there is always a chance for injury and broken/fractured bones. In 7th grade, my son got his left hand smashed between two football helmets in a tackle situation. He was hurt pretty bad. I took him to the high school trainer and he felt it was just bruised. A day later my motherly instincts kicked in and I got him an X-ray. Sure enough, his left hand was busted up pretty good. Six weeks later and a good cast, Nick was just like new!

Side note: Did you know casting of a broken bone has no actual healing properties; its only function is to keep the bone stable to allow it to heal back together?

The other night Nick was catching a high-speed pitcher.   This kid was throwing some heat and my son was on the other end of that ball.  I saw the catch that caused the injury on his thumb. Of course, Nick kept on playing. In fact, he didn’t tell anybody about the injury so he could continue to play.  As a mom of a high school player, we know we can’t say a word as the coach pretty much owns him on that field :)! That night we looked at it and it looked like just a bruise. But I’m no doctor. Two days later the pain is gone, so I’m going with it. However, I am taking him in to get an X-ray tonight just to make sure he doesn’t have a fracture. BUT, it can be really hard to tell if you’re child has broken or fractured a bone and in my opinion it’s better to play it safe.

Here are the three most common signs of a fracture:
pain
swelling
deformity

According to several websites here are some signs to determine if the injury is a break or a fracture.

Broken:
If it’s broken you will hear a snap or a grinding noise during the injury. You can have bruising and swelling or feel pain when putting pressure on the area. If you can’t move it or it’s deformed, chances are the bone is broken. Applying ice packs to the area will treat any swelling and inflammation, and immobilization will prevent any further injury until you’re able to seek medical attention.

Fractures:
With fractures, you might not feel as much pain, but if you suspect, get it checked. In the majority of fractures, the bone is not misaligned, and allows for easier healing of the bone. Keep in mind, fractures that occur near nerves and arteries can have serious effects. If the limb is cold, blue, or numb it’s important to seek emergency help immediately. Thankfully, these situations are rare and are generally only found in serious accidents involving great force. If you do not receive the correct treatment, you could develop a serious infection, or a permanent deformity. You may also develop long-term problems with your joints.

My motto with injuries has always been: expect the worst, hope for the best.

If you would like to read more, here is some good information from Livestrong!

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