Common Orthopedic Injuries in Kids

As any parent of an active child likely knows, childhood injuries are common. Sports and other activities often lead to sprains, breaks, and other types of afflictions.

What are some of the most common orthopedic injuries in kids, and what can parents expect?

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Sprains are classified as any injury to the soft tissue around the bone, such as a torn ligament or a stretched tendon. They can be just as painful as broken bones but require less medical intervention than fractures. In fact, sprains can sometimes be even more painful than fractures. In a mild sprain, the nearby joint remains stable. Whereas, in the case of a moderate or severe sprain, the joint is affected.

Sprained ankles account for a large percentage of childhood orthopedic injuries, and hand sprains are also especially common in kids, usually due to sports (i.e., a wayward basketball bending the finger backward). Torn ACLs and MCLs are another frequently seen form of sprains that affect the knees.

Key signs that your child is experiencing a sprain include swelling, redness, pain, and bruising. With some sprains, you may also hear a pop similar to that of a broken bone. Mild sprains can often be treated at home with the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation), but it is always a good idea to make an appointment with a doctor for an examination or an X-ray.

Bone Breaks

Childhood fractures are another common pediatric injury. While most sprains usually occur silently, with a fracture, you might hear a crack, a pop, or another sound associated with the injury. In place of or in addition to pain, some fractures will cause numbness and tingling. And while this is not always the cause, many breaks cause a visible deformity to the area of the body that has been affected.

Fractures require immediate medical attention to immobilize the affected joint, stabilize the fracture, and facilitate healing. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to help “set” or align the broken bones. Other measures such as crutches or a cast may be needed. In the case of a fracture, complete healing can take weeks or even months.


Dislocations are joint injuries that occur when connected bones come apart. More common in teens than in younger children, these injuries often happen during sports, extracurricular activities, and other situations where extreme force is put on a joint. Ligaments can also be torn in the process.

Just as with a sprain or a break, signs of dislocation can include pain, swelling, bruising, redness, numbness, weakness, loss of joint functionality, and a visible deformity in the affected area. Due to this similarity to other types of injuries, if a dislocation is suspected, a medical exam is often necessary to identify the exact problem. Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment could include the RICE method, repositioning, traction, a splint or a cast, or surgery.

Overuse Injuries

Other commonly seen injuries in a pediatric orthopedic setting include muscle strains, tennis elbow, and shin splints. All of these are caused by overexertion, leading to stress on the body and inflammation. Most overuse injuries can be treated with rest, pain medicine, and heat or ice. In some cases, physical therapy may also be required. Encouraging safe athletic habits such as proper warm-ups and stretching can help prevent these types of injuries.


Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that most often occur during contact sports such as boxing, football, or wrestling. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are critical to prevent brain damage and lasting mental effects. Contrary to popular belief, a loss of consciousness does not always occur. In addition to orthopedic care, children and teens suffering from a concussion will most likely require the care of a neurologist. In some cases (such as in the event of a severe injury), surgery may be necessary.

Is your child experiencing signs and symptoms of an orthopedic injury such as a strain, sprain, or break? Give us a call today to consult with one of our board-certified pediatricians.