Fractures and Dislocations : Athletic Injuries

Bone fractures occur when there is a break in the extension of one of the bones in the body. High impact activities in athletics can cause such injury when stress is placed on the bones. A dislocation of the bone affects the joint when one of the joint bones abruptly shifts out of position, such as when vigorously changing direction during athletic exercise.

Symptoms of Fractures and Dislocations

Athletes feel intense pain when experiencing a fracture or break because fluid increases in the tissue of the bone region and bleeding occurs adding to the pressure. A break in the bone tissue also causes muscle spasms and the tendons attempt to keep the bone in place. Joint dislocations often also injure ligaments attempting to hold the bones together or tendons attaching muscle to bone. The effect is swelling in the joint region with inflammation and intense pain making it difficult to move the dislocated joint.

Causes of Fractures and Dislocations

Fractures can occur when athletes trip and fall over an obstacle or lose balance when running. Stress fractures can occur when weight in the body is shifted disproportionately and with force as athletes twist their bodies to change direction. Dislocations are caused by sudden jolts to one of the joints (fingers, toes, ankles, wrist, elbow, shoulders) when athletes either fall or twist the body at an accelerated pace. With dislocation of wrist or elbow, bone fractures usually occur too. Besides incorrect exercise technique or not warming-up enough before sport causing stiffness, other causes of fractures and dislocations include bone brittleness from poor diet or ill-health, and wearing clothing and shoes that don’t support the body for athletic activity.

Medical Treatment of Fractures and Dislocations

If an athlete suspects bone fracture, the athletic exercise should be stopped, the athlete should rest, ice should be applied to the fracture site with bandaging for compression support, and the fractured limb should be raised to reduce swelling. Ibuprofen can be used to reduce inflammation and pain. The same immediate treatment should be applied for joint dislocation.

A healthcare professional should be seen to diagnose and  treat the fracture or joint dislocation injury as soon as possible. X-ray radiographs and Computed Tomography (CT Scan) may be necessary to determine the extent of the fracture or break, or in the case of dislocation to identify damage to ligaments and tendons. Surgery or bone grafting may be required with the fractured limb placed in a cast or splint. A dislocated limb may need surgery to reposition the joint and build the ruptured ligament or tendon. Buddy wraps are used as splints for injuries to fingers and toes. For restorative treatment, a physiotherapist may provide exercise regimens to strengthen the limb and to teach the athlete safe exercising techniques.

Preventing Fractures and Dislocations

Getting advice from a professional sports coach or physiotherapist on restorative exercise patterns and techniques, diet, fluid intake, and orthotic aids can reduce the likelihood of dislocation or bone fracture. Being aware of terrain during athletics can help prevent falls. Regular updates of medical history with a physician can also help identify illnesses that can weaken bones and joints. Taking rests during and between athletic activity can also reduce the risk of fractures and dislocations.

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