Elbow and Wrist Fracture Prevention for Children

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The arrival of spring and summer weather can bring about playground and sports safety concerns for many parents. Nearly 156,000 children under age 14 experience an injury on a playground each year, and Rebound physicians want to help parents prevent these injuries by providing some helpful tips and information, whether your child is involved in athletics or outdoor play of any kind.

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Elbow and Wrist Fracture Prevention

Forty-five percent of playground injuries are severe, according to the Center for Disease Control, and fractures are at the top of the list.

“Upper extremity fractures are incredibly common among active children, and typically happen because of a fall, but there are ways to avoid having that fall turn into a fractured elbow or wrist,” says Dr. Douglas Musgrave, Rebound’s board-certified and fellowship-trained hand surgeon who treats congenital, acquired, or trauma-related problems in children and adults.

The elbow and wrist fracture prevention message that Rebound physicians recommend all parents teach their children is effective and easy to remember: “fall on your forearms.”

“By instinct, we tend to stick out our arms and use our hands to break a fall. This significantly increases the risk of breaking a bone. Falling on your forearms and rolling puts less pressure and impact on delicate bones in the wrist and vulnerable bones in the elbow,” says Dr. Musgrave.

If your focus is on preventing these types of injuries for your children who participate in sports or athletic activities, you can apply the same principal and encourage the use of protective gear, like special guards and pads.

Elbow & Wrist Fracture Treatment

Our physicians are on call at all times at both hospitals in Clark county to care for children’s hand, elbow and wrist fractures. If your child is sent home from an urgent care facility or emergency room, Rebound is a trusted provider for next-day ongoing and expert fracture care.

“Treatment of elbow and wrist fractures depends on the type of fracture, severity and the displacement of the bone,” says Dr. Musgrave. “But, pediatric upper extremity fractures often have a high chance of successful outcomes.”

There are surgical and nonsurgical treatment methods available for broken elbows or wrists. With elbow fractures, if the bone hasn’t been displaced, or is displaced slightly, a Rebound physician may opt for a cast or splint. These cases may take three to five weeks to see healing. When an elbow fracture disrupts bone alignment or positioning, physicians may have to physically realign the bones (most often with surgical methods). This treatment method, a combination of pins, screws or wires may be used before placing the child in a cast.

Like elbow fractures, wrist fracture treatment also depends on the type, severity and displacement of bone. If the break occurs close to the thumb, a cast is the most common treatment, and the injury could heal within weeks. However, if the fracture occurs near the base of the wrist, closer to the forearm, treatment may become more involved.

“This area of the wrist has difficulty healing as quickly due to poor blood supply,” says Dr. Musgrave. “In some cases, a cast from thumb to elbow may be necessary. When the fracture is significant, bone grafts or metal implants can help improve and speed the healing process.”

Rebound welcomes both adult and pediatric patients with upper extremity injuries. Our hand center treats a variety of these injuries through surgical and nonsurgical methods and includes on-site hand therapists for your convenience and total care. For more information on elbow and wrist fracture prevention for children, subscribe to our newsletter.

 

If you need to seek consultation from one of our skilled physicians, please call 1-800-REBOUND.

Helpful Resources:

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) – Playground Safety Guide

AAOS – Playground Safety Checklist

AAOS – Elbow Fractures in Children

AAOS – Forearm Fractures in Children

Rebound Orthopedics & Neurosurgery – Hand Surgery

Rebound – Hand Therapy