First Aid: Sprains and Fractures

First Aid: Sprains and Fractures

A sprain occurs when the soft tissue connecting muscles and bones pulls or tears. Most sprains hurt, and some take even longer than a broken bone to heal. A fracture may occur when a bone is hit with more force than it can bear.

If a bad sprain or a fracture occurs and you can’t get first-aid supplies, make do with what’s on hand.

  • A broken leg can be splinted to the good leg. You can also use a rolled-up towel as a splint.

  • Immobilize an injured arm by cradling it in a sling. Fold a bandana or scarf into a triangle and tie it behind the neck.

1. Control Any Bleeding

  • Hold your arm beneath the injury, supporting the limb on both sides of the damage. (Wear gloves or use other protection to prevent contact with blood.)

  • Apply direct pressure to stop bleeding.

  • If a bone has broken through the skin, cover the wound with loosely wrapped gauze or cloth and apply pressure around the injury. DON’T increase damage by pressing directly on the bone or pushing it back into place.

2. Immobilize the Injury

  • Place a rigid material (splint) next to the injury, and tie or tape it in place. Secure the splint above and below the injury.

  • DON’T increase damage by straightening an injury.

  • DON’T secure the splint too tight. If toes or fingers become pale, cold, or numb, loosen the splint immediately.

3. Ice and Elevate

  • Place ice or a cold pack on the injury for 20 minutes every hour to limit swelling and pain.

  • Raise the injury above the heart, if possible, to reduce swelling.

Seek medical help if any of the following is true:

  • The injury has forced a joint beyond its normal range of motion and now the joint won’t work.

  • A strong force, such as a fall, placed great stress on a bone, especially if a snap was heard.

  • The joint or limb looks crooked or bowed.

  • You have reason to believe a bone is broken.

Call 911 right away if the victim has no feeling or movement in the arms or legs, or if the head is at an odd angle (spinal cord injury likely).

  1. Keep the victim’s head, neck, and back exactly as you found them. Place heavy objects around the body or hold the head still with your hands.

  2. Move the victim only to save his or her life. Lift the body as one unit, supporting head, midsection, and legs. DON’T straighten the victim, elevate the legs, or tip the head in any direction.