Fractures: How Bad Are They?
Fractures, or broken bones,
are a fairly misunderstood injury. Most people would rather have a
sprain than a broken bone.
all reality, you are probably better off with a broken bone than a
ligament sprain. Whats that? You think I must be crazy? Read on to find
out all about broken bones, and why they may not be as bad as you
What is a Fracture?
In its simplest terms, a fracture is a broken bone. Bones are hard,
stiff tissue that withstand lots of tensile force and load. (here I go
again with those big words). Think of your bones as the framework of
your body. The soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, tendons, etc) decorate
that framework, and allow for movement and cushioning. They also make
us look less skeleton like.
When a break occurs, the bones are broken in one or
many places. They can be small, hairline cracks, complete breaks where
the bone breaks all the way through. They can be displaced, meaning the
ends of the bones move out of alignment. And the nastiest, compound
breaks, when the ends of the bones actually pierce the skin and stick
There are over 200 bones in the body, so there are
lots of different possible places in the body this can occur.
How Does It Occur?
It takes a lot of force to break a bone. They are designed to withstand
a significant amount of stress. However, in sports, sometimes the
forces are great enough to cause the bones to break. Broken bones in
sports are common at the ankle, foot, shin, arm, ribs, fingers, and
Signs and Symptoms
There is usually some type of force that causes the break. It isn't an
injury that just creeps up on you. You get hit with a baseball, you
roll over your ankle, you are tackled from behind. These kinds of
forces can cause a broken bone, and you will usually remember exactly
what happened, and when it happened. (Stress fractures
exception to this, and I will talk more about them later).
When you break a bone, you will have pain, swelling
around the injury site, loss of range of motion, and you may have
deformity. Quite often, sports fractures are not a sure thing. You may
not know you broke a bone until you have an X-ray.
A broken bone can only be diagnosed by X-Ray. This takes a picture of
the bones, and will show any type of disruption in the bone. Most
injuries that cause significant pain, swelling, and loss of function,
especially if they were caused by a significant force, should be
X-rayed, or at least evaluated by your physician.
Healing - The Good News
Bones heal through a process of regeneration. Unlike soft tissue, which
forms scar tissue, bones heal back to original strength with the exact
same tissue as was there before injury. So, a broken arm, if taken care
of, will heal good as new. This is great news, because it means that
most of these injuries will not end your career.
The other good news is that they heal relatively quickly when compared
to soft tissue injury. Most broken bones are immobilized for 4-6 weeks
to allow for healing, and then you can gradually return to activity.
Some broken bones require rehabilitation, usually to help regain motion
in the joints that were immobilized. Others don't require rehab, just a
gradual return to activity.
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Specific Broken Bones in Sports
Broken bone of the hand, involving the metacarpals, this is
not just for boxers.
Break of the base of the 5th metatarsal, this one can be a bit
Broken wrist, involving the navicular carpal bone.
Break of the clavicle, or collar bone. Most common with contact and
Harris (Growth Plate)
A Salter Harris fracture
involves the growth plate of the bone. Learn more about the five types
of growth plate fractures.Stress
A weakening of the bone, this one can be
tricky to spot and treat.