Health and Safety

Orthopedic Injuries

Orthopedic injuries in children are one of the most common visits to the pediatric emergency department (AAP). Courtney Trapp, an orthopedic nurse clinician at Children’s of Alabama, said, “the majority of patients we see come in for injuries related to sports or trampoline parks, especially during the summer months.”

Precautions to take against injury

School being out during the summer months and kids having more free time can lead to unforeseen incidents, including orthopedic injuries. While spending time outdoors is very beneficial for children, the risk of injury increases. Parents can take precautions to prevent their child from being injured.

Teaching kids how to use safety precautions when playing sports and supervising them while they play outside can decrease the risk of injury. Parents should ensure their child is wearing or using proper safety equipment depending on the sport or activity. For instance, if a child is riding a bike, they should wear a helmet. A safety net should always be used on a trampoline. If a younger child is playing with older kids, the younger child is more likely to be injured due to the size difference. Parents should be mindful of who their child plays with to reduce the risk of accidental injury. Implementing vitamin D in a child’s diet is recommended by The American Academy of Pediatrics to help maintain good bone health. Their general recommendation is 600IU (international unit) per day and can typically be found in an over-the-counter multivitamin. 

Signs of a broken bone

A broken bone, also called a fracture, is when a break goes through part or all of a bone. Broken bones typically happen from a fall, accident or sports. Fortunately, the healing process is typically faster for kids who break their bone. “Most kids stay in a cast for 4-6 weeks, wear a splint after and then avoid high-contact sports for several weeks,” Trapp said. 

The signs of a fracture depend on the type of break and the bone affected. Pain, swelling, bruising and lack of movement all indicate a broken bone. Sometimes, there is a deformity – when the body part looks crooked or different than it did before the injury. Doctors order X-rays if they think a bone is broken and treat the broken bone with a cast, splint or brace. Children wear one of these for several weeks or even months, depending on the injury.

What to do if my child breaks a bone?

In situations when a child’s bone breaks, they should not move the injured extremity. “If splinting materials are available, i.e. pillows or blankets, then the parent should try to stabilize the extremity on the way to get the child evaluated,” Trapp said. If caregivers notice an immediate deformity or swelling in a child’s extremity, they shouldn’t give them anything to eat or drink. If they have to be sedated, it has to be done on an empty stomach. Once arriving to a hospital, the child could go to the operating room or emergency room – depending on the injury. How do you know when to bring your child to the emergency room if their bone breaks? If you see a deformity of the extremity, a child should go to the emergency room. If there is not an obvious deformity, the orthopedic team at Children’s recommends visiting the child’s pediatrician to see if they need to be referred to an orthopedic department.

If safety precautions and supervision are implemented while children are engaging in sports and activity, visits to the emergency room can be avoided.

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