Did You Know That Broken Bones and Fractures Mean the Same Thing?

Date Created: 05/15/2017
By Christopher Hamann, M.D., ABEM, ACEP

broken bone

A fracture in fact is the clinical term for a broken bone and can vary in severity, from a small hairline fracture to a compound fracture, which is when the broken bone breaks the skin.

Broken bones and fractures are the most common orthopedic problems in the United States and affect around 6.8 million each year. The average person can develop up to two fractures in their lifetime. Needless to say, this is a problem that affects many, and at some point you or a loved one will experience this medical inconvenience. Below you will find more information on the most common broken bones, how fractures affect children and also learn who is more prone to these types of injuries.

Most Common Broken Bones

Broken bones are the most common reason people visit the emergency room. In adults, broken bones in the arm account for 50% of adult injuries. The arm usually breaks in the humerus of the upper arm or in the radius of the ulna, in the lower arm. Why does this happen you may ask? Why are broken arms so common? In a fall, people usually brace themselves using their arms, which results in injury depending on the severity of impact.

Another common location for breaks or fractures is in the feet, largely because 25% of your bones are actually located there. Injuries in the foot usually occur due to impact—like when something falls on it—or a stress fracture.  A stress fracture is when you get a tiny crack in the bone caused by repetitive force, overuse or unnecessary stress or pressure placed on the bone. While people are able to walk with stress fractures, it still is very important to seek medical attention, as not treating a stress fracture could lead to chronic pain and possibly arthritis.           

Other common breaks are in the wrist and ankle. With regards to the wrist, a break usually happens when someone is trying to brace himself or herself while falling. The injury usually happens on the thumb-side of the wrist.

A broken ankle is usually a sports related injury—most commonly from basketball, soccer, or football. The more bones that are broken in the ankle, the less stable it is. Broken ankles are often accompanied by ligament damage.

Broken Bones in Children

Each year in the United States, emergency departments (EDs) treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries.  About 56% of playground-related injuries treated are fractures and abrasions. Broken bones and fractures in children are very common, as many children are highly active and enjoy being on the playground or playing sports.

Children tend to experience broken bones and fractures in their upper extremities, like the wrist, forearm and above the elbow. These injuries happen as many do, when they are trying to brace a fall.

Typical signs of a fracture are pain, swelling, and deformity. However, if a break is non-displaced, which means when the break is in line or straight with one another, it may be harder to determine if it’s indeed broken.

Here are some signs to help determine if a child’s bone is indeed broken:

  • A snap or grinding noise occurred during when the injury happened
  • The area of injury is tender, bruised or swollen
  • Injured area looks deformed
  • The area is painful to touch, move or press on it.

Diabetes, Celiac Disease, and Broken Bones

Did you know that if you suffer from certain diseases, you could also be more susceptible to broken bones and fractures?

According to the National Institutes of Health, people with celiac disease are twice as likely to suffer from a broken bone. About two million people suffer from this disease, in which the immune system attacks the small intestine in response to gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten is also found in many other products, less obvious products, like salad dressings, soups, egg substitute, and processed cheese, to name a few.

According to various studies, those diagnosed with celiac disease were about 30% more likely to suffer a bone fracture and sixty-nine percent more likely to have a hip fracture, according to the analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. It was advised that people with celiac disease adhere to a gluten free diet, so they would minimize the risk of broken bones.

Diabetes and Broken Bones

While scientists aren’t exactly certain as to why, individuals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes seem to be at a higher risk for fractures and broken bones.

While people with diabetes are more likely to experience a fracture than those without the disease, the reasons for the increased risk may differ in type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Scientists know that people with type 1 diabetes are at a higher risk for osteoporosis, so with that being said, fractures are also at an increase for type 1-diabetes sufferers.  

Lack of insulin in the system could be a partial culprit for this. It is also known that children with type 1 diabetes have a low bone growth, which often causes problems later in life related to osteoporosis and broken bones.

If you believe that you or your child may have a fracture, please seek attention immediately. GuideWell Emergency Doctors can assist in getting you on the path to recovery quickly and effectively. If you’re unable to get a quick appointment with your primary care physician and don’t want to wait in the ER for a long period of time, come to GuideWell Emergency Doctors. We have three facilities in Orlando.

Christopher Hamann, M.D., ABEM, ACEP

Dr. Hamann is board certified with the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Wisconsin and completed his residency in Emergency Medicine at the University of Florida HSC, Jacksonville, Florida. Dr. Hamann has held positions as Staff Physician at Cleveland Clinic Hospital-Naples and as Assistant Director of Emergency Medicine at Physicians Regional Medical System in Naples, Florida. Dr. Hamann has many interests including architecture, landscape design, surfing, paddle boarding, mountain biking, cooking, and baking. He and his wife, Lisa, have two daughters.

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