Lifestyle x-ray of fractured bone

Published on September 23rd, 2013 | by Joe Starks

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Athletic Science: Bone Fractures

The average person suffers a bone fracture twice in his or her life. This by itself speaks of how common a problem this is. Of course some physically weaker or more risky people will get more than their fair share, while very careful or robust people might never experience the pain that comes with a broken bone. There are various reasons why a bone might break, various ways they will break in and different aftereffects for different people. In this article we’ll discuss all these factors and see which the best ways to avoid bone fractures are and how to handle a situation when a bone fracture happens.

What is a bone fracture and how does it happen?

Our bones are made from bone cells and connective fibers (among other things), which gather around them minerals and salts. These minerals and salts are the main part of the bone which makes it so hard. Some of the bone cells make the bone grow, some release those minerals that are part of the bone when the body needs them and others simply keep the bone’s shape as is.

Bones are quite hard when they are healthy, but various degenerative and genetic diseases and malnutrition can cause bones to be quite fragile or even soft. Some people have heavier skeletons than others. It is obvious that smaller, thinner bones break easier; this is why bone fractures happen more often to children and the elderly.

The most common reasons why a bone breaks are usually a very strong impact the bone can’t absorb or the bone getting caught and twisted under or between heavy surfaces. Bones can break in various ways. They can break into very tiny pieces or have a clean smooth surface on the break; they can break horizontally or vertically and anything in between. One very important thing to look out for when someone breaks a bone is if the bone protrudes out of the body or not. In the first case you have an open fracture, which can be extremely dangerous to the person, while the latter is a safer variant of this painful problem.

The main things people should avoid as not to break bones are:

  • Hitting children or elderly people, ethical reasons aside, these age groups are very susceptible to dangerous bone fractures. Even what you may consider “gentle” hits can cause fractures. Pushing, pulling and slapping should also be avoided whenever possible.
  • Jumping from heights. Just do not jump from heights if you can avoid it. Our bones are not elastic enough to withstand a bad fall.
  • Carrying too much weight. Lifting something heavy can actually break your spine if done wrongly.
  • Getting in a car or motorcycle accident. This is one of the most common reasons for multiple, dangerous fractures.
  • Getting into fights. Avoiding violence in general can do wonders in bone fracture prevention.

What to do when a bone fractures

When you see someone with a bone protruding, broken, from his or her body, it is best not to touch the bone at all and call an ambulance immediately. The person with the open fracture should stay still, as movement can cause blood loss and further disfiguration of the bone. If the person is bleeding profoundly you might want to exert pressure higher up from the wound; for instance in a shin fracture that bleeds a lot you can cause some pressure around the thigh with a sling. Do not do this unless the situation is critical or you have had first aid training, because you can cause a lack of blood flow to the limb.

A closed fracture might be almost unnoticed when it happens. Some people feel immense pain when trying to move, while others may never realize that they broke a bone. This depends on how stable the broken bone is. Toe and rib fractures often go unnoticed if the fractures don’t change the shape of the bone. If there is immense pain it is best to get some x-rays done immediately.

Some fractures might actually lower your athletic capacity forever and even cause you to become physically disabled. Spine, skull and pelvis fractures might cause you to lose feeling in parts of your body, while limb fractures can sometimes become infected and cause you to lose a limb to amputation. Death can also result from an unfortunate bone fracture. This is why, no matter how light the case might seem, if there is a chance of a bone having fractures one should visit a hospital as soon as possible.

Recovering from a bone fracture might just be a few lazy weeks on the sofa or a lifetime struggle with pain and disability. Avoiding instances in which bones might break is a skill we should all instill in those around us and in our selves.

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