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Forearm Fractures in Children

Forearm fractures in children

The forearm is the part of the arm between the wrist and the elbow. It is made up of two bones: the radius and the ulna. Forearm fractures are common in childhood, accounting for more than 40% of all childhood fractures. About three out of four forearm fractures in children occur at the wrist end of the radius.

Forearm fractures often occur when children are playing on the playground or participating in sports. If a child takes a tumble and falls onto an outstretched arm, there is a chance it may result in a forearm fracture. A child’s bones heal more quickly than an adult’s, so it is important to treat a fracture promptly—before healing begins—to avoid future problems.

Anatomy

The forearm is made up of two bones: the radius and the ulna. The radius is on the “thumb side” of the forearm, and the ulna is on the “pinky finger side.”

Growth plates are areas of cartilage near the ends of the long bones in children and adolescents. The long bones of the body do not grow from the center outward. Instead, growth occurs at each end of the bone around the growth plate. When a child is fully grown, the growth plates harden into solid bone. Both the radius and the ulna have growth plates.

The bones of the forearm

 

Cause

Children love to run, hop, skip, jump and tumble, all of which are activities that could potentially result in a fracture to the forearm should an unexpected fall occur. In most cases, forearm fractures in children are caused by:

  • A fall onto an outstretched arm
  • A fall directly on the forearm
  • A direct blow to the forearm

Symptoms

A forearm fracture usually results in severe pain. Your child’s forearm and hand may also feel numb, a sign of potential nerve injury.

Doctor Examination

Physical Examination

After discussing your child’s symptoms and medical history, your doctor will perform a careful examination of your child’s arm to determine the extent of the injury. He or she will look for:

  • Deformity about the elbow, forearm, or wrist
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • An inability to rotate or turn the forearm

During the physical examination, your doctor will also test to make sure that the nerves and circulation in your child’s hand and fingers have not been affected.

Forearm fracture
This child’s forearm fracture has resulted in a bent appearance of the forearm.
Courtesy of Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children

X-Rays

X-rays provide clear images of dense structures such as bones. Because the hand, wrist, arm, and elbow can all be injured during a fall on an outstretched arm, your doctor may order x-rays of the elbow and wrist, as well as the forearm, to determine the extent of the injury.

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