Figuring Out Whether Your Child Has Broken a Bone

Updated 4/5/21

Saying your child is active may be the understatement of the century, so it may not necessarily be a surprise if he gets hurt. But it’s not always as straightforward as you might think to figure out whether your child has really injured himself and needs to see a doctor, especially if it’s a broken bone.

Children can be whirlwinds of activity. They bounce on trampolines, play sports, climb trees, hang upside down on the monkey bars, and run, twirl, climb, leap, skip and hop.

All of this activity is healthy, but sometimes it may turn into a tumble. If your child gets hurt, it can sometimes be hard to determine how bad it is and whether they have a broken bone.

Orthopedic specialist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta  diagnosing and treating a teen patient's fracture.

Here are three signs to look for if you suspect your child’s bone is broken:

  1. The limb is painful. Your child says it hurts.
  2. The area is swollen, bruised or looks deformed.
  3. Your child can’t move the limb, put weight on it or pick anything up.

According to Michael Schmitz, MD, Chief of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, “A broken bone in the hand, arm, foot or leg doesn’t always look broken. You usually can’t see the bone with your eyes. The only way to know for sure is to get medical help.

If you think your child has a broken bone, also called a fracture, contact your pediatrician or visit an urgent care center or emergency department. If your child’s bone is coming through the skin, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department immediately.

Dr. Schmitz says, “Children and teens are not just smaller, younger adults. Because kids’ and teens’ bones are different from adults’ bones, they have different kinds of fractures, they heal differently, and they are still growing, which can hurt or help healing. That is why children and teens with orthopedic injuries should be treated by pediatric orthopedic specialists.”

The pediatric orthopedic doctors at Children’s specialize in recognizing and treating broken bones in growing kids and teens.

In addition to our orthopedic and sports medicine clinic locations, Children’s has several Urgent Care Centers and three Emergency Departments in metro Atlanta.

Our team is dedicated to treating babies, children, teens and young adults. We understand the needs of a growing child and treat more kids’ broken bones than anyone else in Georgia.

Your child’s X-ray will be read by a board-certified pediatric radiologist. We also follow Image Gently guidelines, which means we reduce your child’s exposure to radiation by up to 50% compared to some adult facilities.

If you suspect your child has a broken bone, it’s important to get them care quickly from a pediatric specialist so that their bones can heal properly.

Weekend Clinic for Injuries

Sprains, strains and broken bones don’t wait for weekdays. If your child needs to see a pediatric orthopedic expert on a weekend, Children’s has appointments available on Saturdays in Sandy Springs and Sundays in Duluth. Make an appointment online or call 404-255-1933 to schedule.

Make an Appointment

Michael Schmitz, MD, is Chief of the Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. He is also Co-Director of the Spasticity clinic at Children’s as well as Medical Director of the Fracture Program.

This content is general information and is not specific medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the health of a child. In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away. Some physicians and affiliated healthcare professionals on the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team are independent providers and are not our employees.