Sprains versus breaks
Dr. Edward Fink is a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon on staff at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center. His office can be reached at 602-865-4011.
Question: As a parent of very active and seemingly accident-prone children, I get concerned about my kids being injured. Will you please discuss the difference between sprains and breaks, as well as how these injuries are commonly treated?
Answer: Most parents of active children have probably come to realize that accidents and injuries are just part and parcel of childhood. Millions of children receive medical attention each year for musculoskeletal injuries, such as sprains and fractures, according to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Sprains are injuries that stretch and/or tear ligaments. Ligaments connect our bones, aligning and stabilizing the body’s joints. Sprains can result from rolling an ankle playing sports, awkwardly twisting a knee or falling down, among other causes. Typical symptoms of sprains include pain, swelling, bruising and limited movement at the site of the injury. Most sprains heal quite well on their own with rest, immobilization and time. However, injuries that appear severe or that don’t improve should be evaluated by a healthcare provider.
Fractures are cracks or complete breaks in the bone. Children often suffer fractures from sports-related injuries, falls, being struck by an object or motor vehicle accidents. Symptoms of fractures may be similar to sprains, but while sprains may not always require medical care, broken bones do. It’s important that fractures are properly evaluated and treated by a healthcare provider in order to prevent further damage and promote healing. Treatment typically depends on the severity and location of the break, but often includes rest, immobilizing the broken bone with a cast and, if necessary, surgically repairing the break.
With musculoskeletal injuries, the first and best thing people can do is use the “RICE” treatment plan – which is rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This involves resting the injured body part so it has time to heal, applying ice immediately to reduce inflammation, using some type of bandage or wrap to provide compression to the area to prevent or minimize swelling, and elevating the injured area to reduce swelling.
If your child suffers an injury that concerns you or if you have any questions, contact your healthcare provider. He or she can determine the extent of the injury and recommend the most appropriate treatment option(s).