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8/7/23 blog post

when to be concerned about a fracture

girl with broken arm

in this article:

The harder kids play, the harder they fall. The fact is, broken bones, or fractures, are common in childhood and often happen when kids are playing or participating in sports. Many kids will have a broken bone at some point. Most aren't too big of a deal, but fractures can be scary for kids and parents alike and it can be difficult to determine how bad the injury is.

We sat down with Craig Shank, MD, pediatric orthopedic surgeon with Dayton Children’s, to learn more about fractures and when to seek medical attention for a suspected fracture.

what is a fracture?

A fracture is when a break goes through part or all of a bone. It typically occurs after a fall or when playing sports.

do fractures always require immediate medical attention?
If your child does not have an obvious deformity and they’re not in significant pain, it is possible to wait and make an appointment with a pediatric orthopedic specialist for later in the day or even the next day. Waiting will not affect your child’s outcome.

The following symptoms may seem urgent but in fact, if your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, along with a suspected fracture, you can wait until you are able to get an appointment:

  • Pain that hasn't improved or is worse the next day
  • Tenderness to touch right on the bone that doesn't go away after 1-2 days
  • Inability to put weight on the limb or use the limb after 1-2 days

When in doubt, err on the side of caution, we are happy to check for a fracture whenever parents are concerned.

when should I seek medical attention for my child’s fracture?

  • A fracture with a cut or wound, especially if bone is visible
  • An injury with obvious deformity (a limb that is crooked, angled or looks funny). Sometimes it is helpful to compare it to the other side.
  • Significant pain that has not at least somewhat improved after a couple hours of rest, ice, elevation and Tylenol or Motrin.
when to be concerned about a fracture


how are fractures treated?

Although most broken bones simply need a cast to heal, other more serious fractures (such as compound fractures) might require surgery to be properly aligned and to make sure the bones stay together during the healing process.

With breaks in larger bones or when the bone breaks into more than two pieces, the doctor may put a metal pin in the bone to help set it before placing a cast. When the bone has healed, the doctor will remove the pin.

For the most severe breaks, a surgical repair may require a larger metal plate to be attached to the outside surfaces of the bone, or a rod may be put within the bone to hold bone fragments in place.

what are my options for pediatric fracture care?

Depending on the day and time, your family has several options when seeking care for a suspected fracture:

  • Online scheduling: New and existing patients with a suspected fracture are able to make an appointment online with an orthopedic provider by visiting:
  • After-hours ortho: On Mondays and Wednesdays, between 4:00 – 6:00 pm, parents have an option to walk-in or schedule an appointment online with Dayton Children’s after-hours ortho clinic at south campus by visiting:
  • Call the orthopedics clinic directly: To call the orthopedic clinic directly, patient families can call 937-641-3010 during normal business hours of Monday-Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm. Whenever possible, clinic staff will try and accommodate patients with urgent needs.


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Craig Shank, MD

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