First Aid: Broken Bones

When out hiking, playing, sports, or working hard, there are risks involved. To accept these risks and enjoy awesome activities, all the same, is a great thing, however, to be able to reduce the risks and properly respond to accidents is a necessity. One of the risks involved with many physical activities is that of broken bones. The skills outlined here are for emergency situations only. Whenever possible, professional medical treatment should be sought for any suspected broken bones.

As with any emergency, the first step is to calm yourself and collect your thoughts. Take a deep breath, observe the situation for what it is and determine what needs to be done. Now do it, keeping in mind that “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”

To check for broken bones, it is the same process for any point on the body.
1. Look: Does it have an unnatural angle, is there swelling, is there are cut or broken skin?
2. Feel: Start furthest from the specific point of pain and move towards it. Does the bone seem to shift, can slivers of bone be felt, or does it feel like air or rice crispier under the skin? Check for pulses, if the patient can feel you touching them, and that the temperature of the skin is similar to the opposite, uninjured limb.

If any of these conditions are noted, the bone may be broken. The more signs present, the higher the suspicion for a broken bone will be.

To treat a broken bone in the field, there are a few simple steps to take.
1. Gather material: A straight and sturdy object at least the length required to reach from the joint above the break to the join below to be the splint, something to tie, tape, or strap the splint in place, and some padding material (padding is optional, not required), and, if available, ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory painkiller and/or ice.
2. Size and shape: To get the right size and shape for the split, go to the uninjured limb. If the left leg is broken, set the splint along the right leg and determine the length of splint needed and where to attach the securing material and pads. This will reduce how much the patient will be hurt during this process.
3. Placement: Move the injured limb into a natural position. If this causes excessive pain or there is exposed bone, leave the limb as is. Move the splint to where it is actually needed and secure it just above the joint that is above the break and just below the joint that is below the break. If there is not room to attach above or below a joint, go as far as possible, avoiding putting any straps directly on joints. If padding is available, place the padding between the limb and the splint.
4. Medicate: If there is no reason to believe the patient is allergic to the available medication, give the recommended dosage. Apply ice for about 10-15 minutes and remove for 30-45 minutes. Repeat this application and avoid putting ice or ice packs on bare skin.
5. Seek help: Get the patient to a hospital as soon as possible for definitive treatment.

Location and Condition Specifics:

If an arm is broken, it may help to bend the elbow to a 90-degree angle and cross the forearm in front of the chest. A sling placed over the opposite shoulder and slung under and around the injured forearm can relieve pain caused by the arm hanging free.

A Femur (the thigh bone) will be very painful and can cause extensive internal bleeding. If the injured leg is shorter than the uninjured leg, you can be all but certain the femur is broken. If the bone is not exposed, a second person pulling the foot away from the hip in a straight line, as if trying to stretch the leg back to the right length can relieve much of the pain. Only do this if there are no other injuries suspected on that leg and there is no broken skin in the area of the femur fracture.

Broken ribs are tricky. To leave them in supported is painful, however, to wrap the chest as we once did, reduces their ability to breath properly and can lead to pneumonia. Only wrap the chest if the patient must walk some distance and the pain of unsupported ribs is too great. If you note a large area of the ribs broken or if one section moves down when the rest moves up during breathing, do not have the patient walk unless there is absolutely no alternative. This is what is known as a flail chest and indicates that 3 or more ribs are broken in 2 or more places each and small pieces of bone are free to move around and cut into internal structures.

These skills can save a person the ability to use their limbs as intended or even their life if used properly and timely. If you and friends or family are often doing activities with an increased risk of broken bones, having actual splinting material on hand is wise. SAM ® splints are flexible pieces of metal coated with a foam material that can be rolled up and stored in small spaces. They also have instructions printed on them and can be cut with just about any tool. There are also cardboard and foam splints available for purchase. In absence of commercial splints, however, just about anything will do. A stick, a rifle, a baseball bat, or a boat oar are some examples of what can be used in a pinch.

As always, practice these skills before they are needed and seek as much professional training as possible. Stay safe.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical

Seth Belt

Seth grew up in Southern Arizona before joining the U.S. Navy. While serving in the Navy, Seth was an anti-narcotics operator and an anti-submarine operator for 5 years. He was lucky enough to travel to many of the Central and South American countries, as well as visiting many South East Asian nations and islands. One of Seth’s greatest joys from his time in the Navy was teaching new Sailors firearms education and safety. After leaving the Navy in 2010, Seth returned to Arizona and had a rough time learning how to be a civilian again, often working jobs that could barely pay the bills. After going to school, Seth became an Emergency Medical Technician in the Phoenix Valley, where he now lives with his wife and son.His areas of knowledge cover military, firearms, and emergency medicine.
Seth Belt

1 thought on “First Aid: Broken Bones

  1. I hike with my Corgi in an area where I see few other hikes. Cell phone reception is spotty so I find this info very useful.

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