Not a few people had surely witnessed, at one time or another, a basketball game during which a player fell hard to the floor and suffered an arm fracture. A fracture, as we know, is a broken bone. If it involves the arm, it may occur in the wrist, elbow, lower arm or upper arm. The victim may complain of pain in and around the injured area, nausea, feeling cold and shivery, feeling faint and giddy, numbness in the extremities, or loss of power and function in the joint.
Usually an X-ray is needed to confirm the injury which should be treated until a doctor has made a diagnosis. The first-aider’s duty is to care for the victim while waiting for the ambulance or doctor. Experts recommend the following first-aid procedure:
1) Help the victim to sit down while he supports the injured arm. Provide a soft pillow or blanket on his knees to help take the weight off the injured arm and ease the pain.
2) For a wrist or lower arm injury, gently place a flattened, rolled newspaper splint under the victim’s arm to support the limb from fingertips to elbow. Fix the splint with roller or triangular bandages in several places.
3) Check that the pulse on the thumb side of the wrist is still beating firmly. If not, remove the bandages and splint and reposition the arm until the pulse can be felt before refixing the splint in place. (If the pulse cannot be felt, the victim should be taken to the nearest hospital for urgent assessment.)
4) Apply an arm sling, being careful to avoid jarring the injured arm at any time. To reduce swelling, ensure that the victim’s fingers are slightly higher than the elbow joint. Place the long base of the triangular bandage down the center of the body with the point at the elbow.
5) Slip the sling behind the injured arm and around the neck. Bring up the lower point and tie the ends together on the injured side. Check that the hand is still higher than the elbow when the full weight of the arm is held by the sling.
6) Complete the sling at the elbow by bringing the point forward to the front of the arm. Secure the point to the front layer of the bandage with a safety pin, keeping the pin-head point downwards for safety.
7) Continue to check the victim’s pulse and color of the fingertips every few minutes until the injury has been assessed by a doctor. If any major changes are noted, obtain help urgently.
8) For an elbow joint or upper arm injury, do not attempt to either bend or straighten the limb but allow the victim to support it himself in the most comfortable position. The victim should be helped to either sit or lie down, depending on his own preference and level of pain. Most people will prefer to lie down.
9) Support the injured limb with pillows or blankets.
Keep in mind that caring for a fracture victim involves preventing or reducing the danger of shock, preventing further injury, and relieving pain. Fractures are often complicated by damage to blood vessels and nerves so urgent medical assessment is vital. Call for an ambulance immediately.