A fracture is defined as a broken bone. All bone fractures result from severe trauma, whether from a fall, a violent blow, or some other source. Because of the stresses to which bones are subjected, fractures can occur in different body parts – the skull, neck, forearm, ribs, back, pelvis, hip, and leg.
There are different types of fractures. One type that occurs in children is called a greenstick fracture. This type of fracture involves a child’s bone, which contains less calcium and phosphorus than an adult’s; the bone cracks and bends without breaking completely.
The common type of fracture involving an adult bone is called a simple fracture. In a simple fracture, the bone is cracked or broken (usually, the break is straight across the shaft of a big bone), but the surrounding tissues are not seriously damaged; no broken ends protrude and, therefore, the skin is not broken.
The more severe type of fracture – in which surrounding damage is often extensive, and the ends of a broken bone pierce the muscles and skin – is called a compound fracture. Obviously, a compound fracture is more serious than a simple fracture, causing damage to other tissues and danger of infection.
The rule is that fractures, whether simple or compound, should always be set by a physician, preferably in a hospital. This is especially so in the case of a compound fracture. But while waiting for the ambulance or doctor, it is the duty of the first-aider to care for the victim.
Three basic measures are involved when providing first aid to a victim of fracture: prevention or reduction of the danger of shock; prevention of further injury (for example, damage to blood vessels and nerves); and relief of pain. When the first-aider is in doubt as to whether a bone has been fractured, it is best that he handles the situation as though the victim has a broken bone.
The following are the responsibilities of the person providing first aid to a fracture victim: treating the victim for shock (possibly from failure of blood circulation); applying cold cloths or an ice bag to the injured area to relieve pain; covering a compound fracture with a bandage; and properly supporting and immobilizing the broken bone with a splint in preparation for transporting the victim to the hospital.
One of the signs of a compound fracture is hemorrhage, and the first-aider should attempt first to control this. If bleeding is profuse, the wound should be covered with clean cloths or sterile surgical dressings, bandaging these snugly in place. The fracture victim should not be moved more than is necessary.
It is important that a splint or any support be applied right where the fracture victim lies. The reason for this is that when the victim is finally moved, further damage to his tissues, which may be caused by the sharp ends of the broken bone, is avoided.
The first-aider can make a splint from sticks, boards, pieces of corrugated carton, or even magazines or newspapers. The splint should reach above and below the fractured area far enough to prevent movement of the broken bone. If a simple fracture or a compound fracture involves an arm or a leg, the part should be gently straightened and placed in as natural a position as possible before the splint is applied. The splint may be fastened in place with the use of bandages, strips of cloth, leather belts, or neckties.
Words of caution to the first-aider: If a simple fracture or a compound fracture involves the skull, the neck, the back, or the pelvis, great precautions must be taken before moving the victim.
1. “Fractures and Splinting,” by Willis Lamm – https://www.whmentors.org/saf/fracture.html
2. “Fractures (broken bones): First aid,” on MayoClinic.com – https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/first-aid-fractures/fa00058
3. Locators Online – First Aid, Section 7: First Aid for Fracture – https://www.locators-online.org/firstaid.htm#7