Not so very long ago in human history, learning all about wood was necessary for survival. Green wood or living wood does not snap neatly into two pieces. Instead, it bends or partially rips but not all the way through. Greenstick fractures are so named because of their similarity to how green wood breaks.
In the case of people, “green” means “children”. Although there are cases of adults suffering from greenstick fractures that are rare because adult bones are more solid than children’s bones.
Greenstick fractures are a common type of fracture in children’s bones where the bone does not completely break. They often occur as sports injuries, from a fall, vehicle accidents or from an attack on the child. Fortunately, these fractures are treatable.
The forearm is the part of the body that most often receives a greenstick fracture because in a fall of accident, the child often tries to stop impact in the face or other vital areas with the arms. Bone often pokes through the skin, but not always. The arm or other area swells up. The skin becomes discolored. The arm may look deformed as is there is a new joint inside the arm that was not there previously. The child feels an incredible amount of pain and may not be able to move the arm, wrist and hand.
WARNING: Any fracture is a medical emergency, even if the bone has not broken the skin. Call an ambulance right away.
A greenstick fracture occurs in children who suffer an accident or another injury that results in the bending of one or more of their bones. Because the structure of a child’s bones is slightly different from an adult’s, the resulting fracture from a fall or other trauma leads to this specific type of injury. It often occurs while children are playing sports or who have a blunt injury. It is most common on a child’s arms. People have an instinct to protect themselves from injury by extending an arm, and in a child, a hard fall blocked by the arms can lead to a bending of one or more of those bones. Because the bones of a child are more flexible than they are later in life, this kind of fracture is generally seen in children from newborns to the age of 10.
The goal is to make sure the child is not in shock, stop any bleeding and move the broken bones in place and then put on a cast to make sure the bones heal properly.
X-rays or other diagnostic machines may be needed to locate where the fracture is and how best to splint the bone. If the bones cannot be safely moved into place then surgery to move the bones will be necessary. If all goes well, it should take two months or less for the bone to heal.
To help a child prevent greenstick fractures, be sure that the child understands safety rules and is prepared for the activities they participate in. For sports, ensure that the child has the right gear for the occasion and that it is affixed correctly. All sports and safety gear should be in good repair to prevent additional risk. Keep children under adult supervision at all times to help prevent accidents. Ensure that settles are always worn and that children know not to run into the street. Keep your child in a car seat for as long as possible. If your child has items such as a skateboard, a trampoline or a bounce house, be particularly vigilant about safety and providing soft surfaces for play to avoid fractures. If you have play equipment such as a swing set, place mulch under it to provide your child with a softer place to fall.