If you suspect your child’s leg pain comes from a broken leg, you should take your child to one of our pediatric orthopedic Clinics at one of our four convenient DFW locations. At Medical City Children’s Orthopedic and Spine Specialists, we will quickly see your child.
If your child needs surgery or casting, our Fracture Care Clinic opens every day and you do not need an appointment. Surgery rooms get scheduled every morning, so your child receives the care and attention they need right away.
The leg has four bones; the femur, the patella, the tibia, and the fibula. Any of these bones may break when there is an accident or sports injury. There are different ways of treating a broken leg. The actual treatment depends on the type of fracture, how severe the fracture is, and the age of the child.
What is a Broken Leg?
A broken leg refers to a crack in at least one of the long bones found in the upper or lower leg. A fracture occurs when an accident or sports injury exerts more pressure on the bone than it can bear, thereby breaking it. A child’s risk of fracture can be increased by poor nutrition, obesity, and diets low in calcium.
A child suffering from a broken leg needs to receive medical attention as soon as possible. Since children’s bones heal more quickly than adults, the broken bones must be placed in the right positions before they start healing. Most children experience complete recovery and also regain the full use of their legs if treatment is provided on a timely basis
How do you know if a Child Has a Broken Leg?
Fractures are common in childhood. They are the fourth most common injury in children that are below six years old. Most of the broken legs in children within this age group are a result of falls, while the most serious ones occur from car crashes.
A broken leg in a child is different from that of an adult since the bones in children are more flexible with a thicker covering that makes them absorb shocks better. Fractures in children rarely require surgery. In most cases, all they need is a molded cast to stop the broken bones from moving. Parents should check for several signs of a child’s broken leg. Different symptoms can be experienced due to the different types of fractures that exist. Some of these symptoms include:
The child may have bruises around the break. The bruise may feel tender or may hurt whenever it is touched.
Inability to hold the leg straight
The child may say that he or she finds it difficult to hold the leg straight at the spot of the injury.
Inability to move the leg normally
The child may find it difficult to move the fractured leg. This may not be a sign of a broken leg because some children may be able to move the leg despite being broken.
The site of the injury may be numb. This shows that the nerve near the site of the injury is damaged. This can be easily noticed through a change in skin color.
The child will feel pain when he or she tries to move the leg. The child may also find it difficult to walk, hold or lift objects.
Snapping sound when the injury was sustained
If the child says he or she heard a ‘snap’ when the injury was sustained, it is most likely a broken leg.
You may notice that the area around the injury starts swelling. Bumps may also be seen near the injury site.
If you notice any of these signs or if a bone pokes out through the skin, ensure you seek medical care as soon as possible.
Causes of a Broken Leg
A child can break his or her leg in different ways, including:
A fall can cause one or both of the lower legs to break. The thigh bone, on the other hand, is unlikely to break unless a more significant trauma occurs.
A major motor vehicle accident can break all the bones in the leg.
Collisions during contact sports can break a leg. A direct blow from an opponent’s body or a hockey stick can also cause a broken leg.
Child abuse can also result in a broken leg, especially when it occurs before the child starts walking.
When to See a Doctor
You need to see a doctor right away if your child has any signs of a broken leg. Delaying diagnosis and treatment can lead to complications (such as poor healing). If there is any leg fracture as a result of a high-impact trauma (like a car or motorcycle crash), seek emergency medical care. Fractured thigh bones are severe; they are potentially life-threatening injuries that need emergency medical attention to prevent further damage.
Doctors use a series of diagnostic tests to know if a leg is broken. These tests include:
This is enough to detect the presence of most types of fractures.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
This produces detailed images of organs, ligaments, and tendons.
Computed tomography scans (CT and CAT scans)
These tests provide greater detail of fractures.
These show the inflammation around the bones. They help to see cell activity and bone metabolism.
Treatment for a Broken Leg
The main treatment for a broken leg is to ensure the ends of the broken bones are well aligned and to immobilize the bone to ensure that it heals properly. This healing process starts with setting the leg. If the broken bones are not aligned, the doctor may need to arrange the pieces of the broken bone in the correct position; a process referred to as reduction. After the bones have been well-positioned, the leg is then immobilized with a cast (made of plaster or fiberglass) or splint. The pediatric orthopedic doctors at Medical City Children’s Orthopedic and Spine Specialists use waterproof fiberglass casts for children. The actual treatment administered for a broken leg depends on different factors such as the location of the fracture and the type of leg fracture the child sustained. These can be:
It is also known as a compound fracture. In this case, the broken bone pierces the skin or emerges through a wound.
It is a type of fracture whereby the surrounding skin is not broken.
In this case, the bone is cracked but does not separate into two parts.
The bone breaks into two or more parts.
In a displaced fracture, the bone fragments (on each side of the fracture) are not aligned.
This is the type of fracture that is commonly found in children. In this case, the bone is bent; it does not crack all through.
Internal fixation devices like rods, screws, or plates may be surgically implanted in some cases. This is usually necessary when the child sustains the following injuries:
- Displaced fracture
- Multiple fractures
- A fracture that damages the ligaments around the site of the injury
- A fracture that is caused by a crushing accident
- Fracture in the femur
The doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce pain and inflammation. If the pain is severe, the doctor may recommend stronger pain relievers.
After removing the cast or splint, the child will likely need physical therapy to reduce stiffness and also restore movement in the leg. Since the child has not moved the leg for a while, he or she may experience stiffness and weakened muscles in the areas that were not injured.
Physical therapy will help in this case, but it can take several months or more before severe injuries are completely healed.
How to Reduce a Child’s Risk of Sustaining a Broken Leg
Here are some tips that you can use to reduce your child’s risk of having a broken leg:
- Discourage your child from participating in very risky activities that put him or her at risk of a serious fall or accident.
- Ensure the child has a good balance before riding a bike or scooter. The equipment must also be in good condition and must be the right size for the child. Ensure the child wears a helmet whenever he or she rides a bike or scooter.
- Don’t encourage the child to spend too much time watching TV, playing computer games, or engaging in sedentary activities.
- Ensure the child eats a healthy diet that is low in fat, high in protein, fiber, calcium, and vitamin D.
- The child must wear the right safety gear while participating in organized sports.
- Encourage your child to participate in weight-bearing physical exercises like walking, dancing, and running.
- Encourage the child to cross-train and also take time off to recover; this reduces the child’s risk of a stress fracture.
How Medical City Children’s Orthopedic and Spine Specialists Care For Broken Legs
The board-certified pediatric orthopedic surgeons and fellowship-trained physicians at Medical City Children’s Orthopedic and Spine Specialists treat children, adolescents, and young adults that have fractures of all complexities. Our expertise gives room for the accurate diagnosis of problems that relate to the growing musculoskeletal system. We will develop optimal care plans that will ensure that your child’s specific condition is catered for.
Finally, we offer personalized treatment and urgent pediatric care services at all of our four locations- Dallas, McKinney, Frisco, and Arlington. If you notice any symptoms of a broken leg in your child, don’t hesitate to contact us to avoid complications.
Call 214-556-0590 to make an appointment.
Comprehensive services for children from birth through adolescence at four convenient locations: Arlington, Dallas, Frisco and McKinney.