Believe it or not, there are 206 bones in the human body. While technically you can fracture any bone in your body, some bones are much more likely to break than others (and yes, and break mean the same thing!)
Here are the five most commonly-fractured bones.
The clavicle, more commonly called the “collarbone”, is one of the most frequently fractured bones in the body. In fact, it’s the most common site for a fracture in children. Clavicle fractures can happen to infants during birth as they pass through the birth canal. Clavicle fractures can also happen from falling with your arm outstretched, or from a direct hit, which happens most commonly during contact sports.
The treatment for a clavicle fracture depends on where the break is, and how severe it is. If a fracture is nondisplaced, which means the edges of the bones are touching, the treatment is to wear an arm sling for a few weeks to allow the bone to heal. If a fracture is displaced, which means the edges are not aligned, surgery is often required.
The arm is actually composed of three bones: the humerus, or upper arm, and the radius and ulna, which compose the forearm. Arm fractures account for 50% of adult fractures, and they’re the second-most common fracture site in children.
Arm fractures can happen from impact during a fall, from direct trauma, or from a twisting injury. The treatment for an arm fracture depends on where it is, and how badly the bone is broken. Nondisplaced humerus fractures often heal after wearing an arm sling for a few weeks. Non-displaced ulna or radius fractures often heal after wearing a cast for several weeks. Displaced fractures of the humerus, ulna, or radius typically require surgery, where screws are placed to hold the edges of the fracture together.
The wrist joint is composed of the edges of the radius and ulna, as well as eight smaller bones called the carpal bones. The distal radius (the larger of the two forearm bones, which is on the thumb side of the arm) is the most common site for a wrist fracture.
Wrist fractures are most common in people under the age of 75 since they’re most often caused by physical activity, including skiing, skateboarding, and contact sports. If older people do sustain a wrist fracture, it’s usually because they suffer from osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become thin and brittle.
Nondisplaced wrist fractures are typically treated with a cast that’s worn for several weeks. Displaced fractures usually require surgical repair.
Hip fractures are the most common fracture in adults over the age of 65. In fact, 90% of all hip fractures happen in that age group. Because a drop in estrogen is a risk factor for osteoporosis, postmenopausal women are four times more likely than men to sustain a hip fracture.
Hip fractures often require surgery to “pin” the edges of the fracture together. Severe fractures sometimes require a total hip replacement.
Hip fractures in patients over the age of 65 are especially dangerous -- in fact, one in five elderly patients who sustain a hip fracture will die in the following year. This increase in mortality happens because patients are often immobile as they’re healing from a hip fracture, which means they’re at risk for pneumonia, blood clots, and other conditions that come from prolonged inactivity.
The ankle is composed of three bones: the tibia (on the big toe side of the leg), the fibula (on the pinky toe side of the leg), and the talus.
Ankle fractures have increased over the past few decades, largely due to active, aging “baby boomers.”
The fibula, which composes the outer ankle, is the most common site for ankle fractures, which are often caused when the ankle is suddenly inverted, or “rolled” inward. This mechanism of injury usually also causes damage to the ankle ligaments, which is known as an ankle sprain.
The treatment for ankle fractures depends on which ankle bone is involved, and how bad the break is. Nondisplaced fractures often heal after a period of immobilization with a splint or cast, and limited weight-bearing with the use of crutches. Displaced or unstable fractures typically require surgical repair to place screws that will hold the bones together while they heal.
Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant