Common Sprains and Fractures in Kids and How to Prevent Them

Children’s bones are not just smaller, they are constantly growing and changing, they can heal faster and are more flexible than adult bones. This is why a Paediatric Orthopaedic Specialist is important, they have studied to recognise the differences in musculoskeletal parts of the body between an adult and a child.

Children are boundless balls of energy, and unfortunately, with that activeness and energy, they are prone to injure themselves. Arm and foot injuries are the most common injuries to children (0-18 years of age), if you have an active kid, the likelihood of having broken bones, fractured arms or getting a sprained ankle from sports will be higher.

How Do Child Injuries Occur?

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Most common injuries are caused by children carelessly jumping, running around or playing sports. These sprains and fractures might also be caused by improper ways of exercising, or falling “the wrong way”. Wearing not enough or the wrong gear/guards might also hurt the child when they are doing vigorous activities.

In this article, we will be talking about several common sprains and fractures in children and how to prevent them to protect your child.

How Does a Child’s Arm Fracture?

According to research, arm fractures in kids account for more than 40% of all childhood fractures.1 Children run, jump, tumble and fall, sometimes not falling correctly and hurting themselves accidentally.

Where Are Arm Fracture Accident Areas For Children?

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  • Near the wrist, at the furthest end of the bone (distal)
  • In the middle of the forearm
  • Near the elbow, at the top of the arm

Symptoms of Arm Fracture

  • Numb
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Severe Pain
  • Deformity of the elbow, forearm and wrist
  • Inability to move the wrist, forearm or elbow areas

How Does The Doctor Diagnose Arm Fractures in Children?

Firstly, a child’s bones grow differently than an adults, so find a reputable Paediatric Orthopaedic Doctor that understands children’s bones.

Doctors usually start with a few short questions about how the fall happened. This is followed by a physical examination in which the doctor will check and test the child’s arm to see if the nerves and the fingers are affected.

The Paediatric Orthopaedic will also x-ray the child to diagnose the arm to check the extent of the injury - this will also determine whether the treatment will be a surgical or non-surgical one.

Arm Fracture Treatments For Kids

There are two types of treatments for arm fracture for children - a non-surgical and surgical.

Non-Surgical Arm Fracture Treatment

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Some minor fractures may simply just need the support of a cast or a splint while the body heals on its own. For more severe fractures, the doctor might be able to use this procedure called a closed reduction, in which they manipulate or gently push the bones into place non-surgically. The arm is supported and protected by a cast or splint while it heals afterwards.

Surgical Arm Fracture Treatment

Surgical treatment is needed when a child’s bone needs to be realigned and secured in place. Certain scenarios where surgery might be recommended are when the bone is unstable, has broken through the skin or has been displaced.

During a surgery procedure (called open reduction) to reposition broken bone fragments, the orthopaedic surgeon might use pins, plates and other metal implants to hold the broken bones in place until the bones are healed.

How To Recover From Child Arm Fractures?

The length of time the cast is needed to be worn depends on the severity of the child’s fracture. It may require from 3 to 10 weeks of recovery and physiotherapy for the bones and body to heal itself. The activity restrictions - depending on the doctor’s recommendation - may or may not include an even longer period to begin sports and other activities again.

What Are Sprained Feet in Children?

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Did you know that 85% of all child ankle injuries are sprains?2 Sprained feet are when the children’s feet twists and the ligament tears when playing sports, jumping, turning, roughhousing and falling down.

Parts Of The Feet Prone To Sprains

The following ligaments: Anterior talofibular ligaments, Posterior talofibular ligaments, and Calcaneofibular ligaments make up the lateral complex. These ligaments are the most frequently stretched or torn causing an inversion ankle sprain.

Symptoms of Foot Sprain

  • Pain and tenderness at the arch of the foot
  • Bruising and swelling of the foot
  • Pain to the ankle
  • Pain while walking or during activity
  • Not being able to put your weight on your foot
  • Can range from mild aching to sudden pain.

Sprained Foot Diagnosis For Your Child

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An experienced Paediatric Orthopaedic Doctor will ask about how the sprain occurred and how the child hurt themselves. The doctor will then conduct a physical examination to assess the severity of the injury and to prescribe the type of treatment for the patient.

Treatments for Sprained Feet in Children

Non-Surgical Treatments

For immediate pain management, you can use the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) method to reduce swelling of the foot.

If the pain is severe, the child may need to see an Orthopaedic doctor. The doctor will be able to provide some physical therapy, crutches and anti-inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen.3

Surgical Treatments

Surgery for children with severe ankle sprains is rare, unless there is complete ligament tearing in the foot.

Sprained Ankle Recovery for Children

There are many considerations in a recovery, the age of the child, their medical history of their foot, the severity of the sprain, etc. Healing from a sprain can take up to 2-8 weeks to recover.

All About Children’s Broken Ankles

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Although it might seem similar in condition, children’s broken bones in an ankle might be due to foot sprains which was mentioned earlier in the article. However, foot sprains are only muscle (ligament related) and might not relate to broken bones.

Parts of the Ankles Prone to Injury in Children

Broken ankles or ankle fractures are a common injury in young people. The ankle bones include the shin bone (tibia) and the smaller bone on the outside of the ankle (fibula)4, both of these bones contain growth plates, which are prone from minor to severe injury.

Symptoms of Broken Ankles

Children usually break their ankles from a twist or fall.  Running, jumping and scooter riding are also common ways to break an ankle.  When someone breaks their ankle, there is usually pain and swelling immediately after.  Most people will not be able to move, walk or put their weight on a broken ankle. Bruising on the area happens a few hours later too.

Broken Ankle Diagnosis

Your doctor will check the ankle for bruising, swelling and area of tenderness. The Paediatric Orthopaedic Doctor will also examine the nerves and the blood supply to the foot. To confirm the fracture, the doctor will conduct an X-Ray or a CT scan to examine more closely at the growth plates. The doctor will make sure that there are no other injuries and that the foot is healthy enough for either a cast or surgery if needed.

Treatments for Broken Ankles in Children

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The orthopaedic doctor might recommend a walking boot or foot cast for the child, depending on the way the bone is broken, the doctor might also recommend crutches to keep the weight off the foot. If the bones are displaced, the doctor might be able to manipulate it back in place or to put them back via surgery.

Broken Ankle Recovery in Children

Children’s broken ankles usually heal within 6 to 12 weeks. Your child returning to sports may take longer. Your doctor may follow-up with the ankle for many months to confirm that the growth plates continue to grow well. Fractures that involve the joint do have a small risk of arthritis and stiffness in the future even with proper treatment.

Clavicle Fracture in Kids

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The clavicle also known as the collarbone is a bone that connects the breastbone to the shoulder blade bone. The clavicle is the most frequently fracture bone during childhood. This is common in children after a collision or a fall onto the side of the shoulder or on an outstretched arm.
Clavicle fractures are common in athletes who participate in sports with a high risk of falling, such as horseback riding, biking, skateboarding or skiing. It can also happen when a kid falls from a monkey bar or out of a bed.

Signs and Symptoms of Clavicle Fractures 

  • Pain over collarbone
  • Difficulty moving the affected shoulder
  • Swelling and bruising along collarbone
  • Bulge under the skin above collarbone

Clavicle Fracture Diagnosis

  • Physical examination by doctor
  • X-rays

Clavicle Fracture Treatment

Most collarbone fractures heal very well with minimal treatment such as ice therapy, placed in an arm sling, pain relievers and exercises.
Surgery may be required if;
- fracture breaks through the skin
- presence of nerve or blood vessel damage
- fracture pieces are significantly displaced

Clavicle Fracture Recovery Care

Usually, there will be a residual bump at the fracture site after healing is completed. In younger children, the bump tends to resolve, in young adults or teens, the bump may persist although having a small bump at the site of the fracture does not usually result in pain or difficulty in moving the shoulder or arm.

Our goal is to ensure that your kids return to activity as quickly and safely as possible. Recovery involves a gradual return to activities.
Doctor may allow you to participate in non-contact sports once the fracture is healed, no tenderness is seen and full range of motion of the shoulder with full strength is present.
This is typically achieved by 6 weeks from the time of the injury. Fracture heal very quickly in young children, thus kids are able to return to sports more quickly than adolescents and adults.

Precautions to Take to Prevent Your Child from Getting Injured by Common Child Sprains or Fractures

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Here are some tips on teaching your children how to be safe from getting injured:

Eating a Well-Balanced Diet 

Calcium and vitamin D work together to protect your child’s bones—calcium helps build and maintain growing bones, while vitamin D fortified foods help your body effectively absorb calcium.5 Vitamin D rich foods are fortified foods like cereal, egg yolks and red meat. Examples of calcium rich food are dairy products like milk and yoghurt.

Check the Play Area to Ensure Safety

Before the child plays in an area, check the play area to remove any rocks or fallen branches to reduce debris to ensure a safe environment for young children.

Gear Up for Safety

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  • Your child’s shoes should be fitting and safe without any loose laces or straps.
  • It is recommended that your child should be wearing fitting protective gear such as helmets, wrist guards, knee guards, shin guards and ankle guards while enjoying a more intense activity.
  • Your kid should be wearing fitting clothing, pants that are too long or straps on their clothing might lead them to trip over themselves

Stretch, Warm Up and Cooldown

Encouraging your child to stretch, warm up and cool down before and after exercise will ensure less muscle cramps which will better their fitness and movement.

Children Should Gradually Learn to Be Conscious of Their Surroundings

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Children should be taught about how to manage their movement when they are playing or doing any sports activities. They should be taught spatial awareness to avoid any obstacles that may deter movement, sharp turns or quick changes in direction.

Keep Watch At The Playground

Besides your child’s knowledge and own responsibility for their surroundings, it doesn’t hurt to keep a watchful eye on them at the playground or play area.

Don’t Pay Through The Pain

If a child gets injured, it is recommended that they should stop the play or sport, keep calm and not play through the pain as the injury might get aggravated even more.

Teaching Safety in Children

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It might be a foreboding experience but children are still young and might not know much about play safety and should be guided and alerted before getting physically hurt.

Conclusion

Now that you have learnt about all the common fractures and sprains for children and how to prevent them. However, if an accident occurs, you should look for a reputable Paediatric Orthopaedic Doctor or Surgeon to lead your child to recovery and wellness. For more information, contact us or schedule an appointment today.

Citations

1Forearm fractures in children - types and treatments - OrthoInfo - AAOS. OrthoInfo. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2021, from https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/forearm-fractures-in-children/

2Ankle sprains in children. Massachusetts General Hospital. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2021, from https://www.massgeneral.org/orthopaedics/children/conditions-and-treatments/ankle-sprains-children

3My child sprained their ankle-how soon will they be back on the field? University of Utah Health. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2021, from https://healthcare.utah.edu/the-scope/shows.php?shows=0_4ddaa2i4

4Ankle fractures. OrthoKids. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2021, from https://orthokids.org/en-US/I-Broke-My/Ankle-Fractures-in-Children

5The role of calcium and vitamin D in bone health. EndocrineWeb. (n.d.). Retrieved September 16, 2021, from https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/osteoporosis/role-calcium-vitamin-d-bone-health

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