Woodland Sports Medicine Center

Fractures and Trauma

A fracture is a medical condition in which there is a partial or complete break in the continuity of a bone. Fractures can occur from a high impact trauma or stress on the bone from sports injuries, car accidents, or a fall. Medical conditions that weaken the density of the bone can also greatly increase the risk of a fracture. Immediately after a bone is fractured, it is necessary to seek medical treatment.

Types and Treatment

There are many different types of bone fractures, depending on the cause and the severity of the break. A fracture is diagnosed using diagnostic X-rays, an MRI, a bone scan, or a CT scan. Treatment options and recovery time will differ for each type of bone fracture. Most fractures are treated without surgery, but if the fracture is severe enough, surgical treatment may be required. Types of bone fractures include:

  • Simple Fracture: A simple, or stable fracture, occurs when the broken ends of the bone are still aligned and barely out of place.
  • Unstable Fracture: An unstable fracture occurs when the broken bone fragments are displaced and are no longer aligned.
  • Partial Fracture: A partial fracture is an incomplete break of a bone. Partial fractures are also known as greenstick fractures, in which the bone bends without breaking completely and one side of the bone remains intact.
  • Compound Fracture: A compound, or open fracture, is a severe type of fracture, in which the broken bone breaks through the skin, increasing the risk of infection and requiring immediate medical attention.
  • Growth Plate Fractures: Growth plate fractures are injury to the area of cartilaginous tissues at the ends of the long bones in children. This type of fracture occurs from severe injury to the joint or ligament.
  • Stress Fractures: A stress fracture, or “hairline fracture,” is a small crack in the bone, usually in the weight bearing bones of the lower leg and foot. The most frequent cause is an overuse injury due to intense exercise or repetitive stress on the bone.

Hip Fractures

A hip fracture, or femoral neck fracture, is a break in the upper part of the femur (thighbone). The hip is a ball and socket joint that connects the femur to the pelvis. This type of fracture is most common in elderly patients and can be caused by a fall or minor trauma to the hip. However, younger patients can still experience a broken hip due to high impact trauma or serious injury. Hip fractures are usually surgically treated, however, in less severe cases, hip fractures can be treated with non-operative methods.

Shoulder, Forearm, Elbow Fractures

Fractures to the scapula, or shoulder blade, are uncommon and usually only result from intense trauma, such as an automobile accident or a direct blow to the back or shoulder. The majority of scapula fractures are treated conservatively through immobilization, medication and physical therapy. Only in severe cases will treatment require surgery.

A broken arm, or forearm fracture, occurs when either of the two bones in the forearm (radius and ulna) are fractured. This type of fracture is most common in children and is typically caused by a fall on an outstretched arm or direct trauma to the forearm. Treatment involves placing the broken bones back into position and encasing the arm in a cast or brace to prevent them from moving while they heal.

The elbow is a joint combining the radius, ulna and humerus (upper arm bone). An elbow fracture occurs when the pointy tip of the elbow (olecranon), technically part of the ulna, breaks. An olecranon fracture is usually caused by abnormally twisting the joint, falling the wrong way on the elbow or getting directly hit with a ball or bat. If the elbow fracture is stable, surgical treatment is not required.

To learn more about these types of fractures and trauma, click the following topics:

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