By John Byrnes
Did you know the average person has 2 fractures of the course of his or her lifetime? Anytime a bone is faced with a force stronger than itself, the bone can break. Children are more likely to suffer fractures, but their fractures are typically easier to treat. The elderly are also more likely to suffer fractures since their bones become more brittle with age.
Fractures are very common injuries and can be slow to heal.
There are 4 primary types of fractures:
1. Displaced: The bone is completed broken and ends are not lined up after the break. These breaks require manipulation or surgery to permit healing.
2. Non-displaced: The bone is either partially or completed broken, but the ends remained lined up.
3. Closed: In a closed fracture, the bones remain below the skin surface.
4. Open: Open fractures involve the bone(s) breaking through the skin. Open fractures risk deep bone infection.
Within those 4 groups, there are several types of fractures:
1. A greenstick fracture is an incomplete fracture. The bone is bent. This occurs most frequently in children.
2. Oblique fractures have a sloped or curve pattern to them.
3. Impacted fractures result from the ends of 2 bones being driven into each other and are common in children.
4. Transverse fractures occur at a right angle to the bone.
5. Comminuted fractures result in several bone fragments along with the fracture. These commonly require surgery to keep the pieces together.
6. Pathologic fractures are caused by disease that causes the bones to weaken.
7. Stress fractures are the result of repeated stress rather than a single, acute event.
There are 206 bones in the human body, and while all are important, some are more likely to be broken than others.
The most commonly broken bones:
1. Clavicle / collarbone: This bone is commonly broken in children. The bone is well exposed and in the perfect position to fall victim to the play habits of kids. In many cases, surgery isn’t required.
2. Wrist: The most common wrist fractures are Colles’ fractures. It occurs when the radius bone of the arm breaks off at the end where it is part of the wrist joint. It is most often caused by sporting activities that commonly result in falls, such as biking and skateboarding.
3. Arm: Half of all fractures in adults involve the arm. It is the most common break in adults. The collarbone is the common fracture in children.
4. Hip: Broken hips are common in the elderly and usually result from slips and falls. 25% of hip breaks in those over the age of 50 die within a year due to complications from the fracture. 90% of hip breaks occur in those over the age of 65.
5. Ankle: It can be challenging to determine if your ankle is broken or merely sprained without the use of an x-ray. The 3 bones that compose the ankle are all subject to breaking as the result of overextension or impact.
Fractures are painful injuries and quite common in falls, slips, construction accidents, motor vehicle accidents, and as the result of violence. Fractures are not only painful, they can limit mobility and interfere with the ability to work and earn a living. Some fractures can take 12 weeks to heal and require physical therapy.