BicycleSource Newsletter

A broken bone is a possibility if extreme pain is reported at the site of the injury, which is increased by any movement, with the casualty losing normal use of the extremity. As the broken limb is seldom life-threatening in itself, the most important step is to ensure that the patient is free from further harm, and has good respiration and pulse before proceeding to immobilize or move the patient. Also, treat for any profuse bleeding first.

Symptoms, in addition to pain and the loss of normal functioning of the extremity, include swelling and later bruising, an apparent deformation of the body part when compared to its opposite, and shock setting in.

Special Cases

If a back or neck injury is suspected, the patient must not be moved unless it is absolutely necessary. Do not allow any accident victim complaining of neck or back pain to sit or stand, and don't give them anything to drink. See details on spinal injury.

Let trained emergency medical personnel transport the victim to the hospital if the injury is serious. If the injury is to the leg or hip, it may be a dislocated joint or a broken thigh or pelvis. If the neck or back are injured, you may paralyze the patient by attempting to move someone yourself. Finally,if there is reason to suspect multiple broken bones, or if there is serious bleeding or other injuries, call an ambulance.

If the broken bone protrudes from the skin, do not try to push it back in. Cover it with a dry sterile dressing, until trained help arrives. Use direct pressure to stop excessive bleeding, as with a puncture wound.


A broken bone should be steadied and supported by an attendant placing one hand above and another below the injured area. If help has been summoned, make the patient comfortable by placing rolled textiles alongside the injury. The pain is caused by the two ends of the broken bone rubbing together, so reduce this as much as possible. Do not attempt to move a casualty without immobalising the injury first.

If help is not expected to be quick, immobilize the joints above and below the injury using a splint. The splint can be wood, a seat post, several magazines, or even a sound part of the body. Both ends of the splint must extend well beyond the region of suspected injury. Bandages, cloth, belts, or tape make good fasteners for the splint.

Most injuries of the hand, wrist, or arm can be stabilized simply with a sling, which should be used to support a splint where possible anyway. A sling for the arm simply supports the arm from the neck, and can be a simple loop of cloth if the arm is splinted. If the collarbone is broken, a horizontal wrap around the arm and chest should be applied in addition to the sling.

This article is NOT a substitute for a first aid course. Such course are inexpensive and provide hands on experience and extremely valuable information in dealing with any situations you may encounter.
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