What Are Hand Fractures?
In this child’s little finger, there’s a fracture in the finger bone closest to the hand.
Fractures are cracks or breaks in bones. Children and teens may break their finger or thumb bones (phalanges, fah-LAN-jeez), their wrist bones (carpals) or the long bones between their fingers and their wrist (metacarpals).
Most hand fractures happen when:
- A child falls on their hand.
- Their hand gets twisted, bent or smashed.
- The child hits (or is hit by) something hard.
In toddlers, breaks often happen when the tip of their finger gets caught in a door. Older children tend to get breaks during sports or other active play.
An injury that breaks a bone may also damage a child’s growth plates or soft tissues that are near the bone or connect to the bone, such as skin, ligaments or tendons. Damage to growth plates or soft tissues may affect the way doctors treat your child’s fracture.
Types of Fractures
There are several types of fractures:
- Simple fractures are breaks or cracks in the bone that do not break through the skin.
- Open fractures are breaks in which the bone sticks through the skin.
- Traumatic fractures occur due to injury, such as falling while running, biking or riding a skateboard. The bone gets more force than it is able to handle, and it breaks. Most fractures are traumatic.
- Stress fractures can happen when a child or teen repeats the same position or motion over and over for long periods of time. Stress fractures are not common.
- Pathologic fractures occur because the bone is weaker than normal. This is usually due to holes in the bone (bone cysts) or certain bone conditions, such as brittle bone disorder (osteogenesis imperfecta), in which bones break easily. This is not a common cause of fractures.
Hand Fractures in Children
Children are flexible, so their bones may bend after a break. They may straighten out as they heal. This process is called remodeling.
Because of remodeling, a young person’s broken bone will heal better and with less treatment than a similar break in an adult. But some fractures that look simple to treat can cause serious problems for children or teens and affect the bone’s ability to grow.
In every child’s and teen’s bones, growth occurs at specific points called growth centers or growth plates. Often, these points are near the ends of the bone.
If the growth plate is damaged by a fracture or another injury, the bone may stop growing. This serious problem is called a growth arrest. Growth arrest can permanently stop a bone’s development and change how it functions. If only part of the growth plate is damaged and stops working, the bone may grow in an uneven way.
Fractures are very common in children and teens. About half of all boys and a quarter of all girls break a bone sometime before adulthood.
Hand Fractures at Seattle Children’s
At Seattle Children’s, we understand children’s and teens’ growing bones. We have the knowledge and experience to provide expert fracture care, including surgical treatment of the most complex cases.
We treat about 2,000 children and teens with fractures each year. In the summer, when children play the hardest, we see many fractures on our busiest days. Many of the patients we treat are referred to us from other doctors and hospitals throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Learn more about our Fracture Program, which handles fractures and growth-plate injuries, and our Hand and Upper Extremity Program, which focuses on hand and arm conditions, including fractures.