The question of the day is “How do I know?” How do I know if my child is hurt enough to take to the doctor? Let’s face it–kids fall and get hurt all the time. It’s what they do. Their primary job is to run, jump, and play and injuries are bound to happen. So how do you know when you should run over to your local Orthopedic Surgeon?
I suggest you closely evaluate what you see, what you feel, and what you hear. In reverse order, what did you hear from your child? We all know the cries of our children. When one of my boys would cry out from another room I could confidently ascertain in most cases that nothing serious had happened. But occasionally I heard “That Cry”, and you know the one I’m talking about. It’s the cry that instantly tells you know something’s way out of the ordinary had happened.
What do you feel? In my nearly 30 years of private practice I have learned to trust mother’s (and sometimes even father’s!) intuition. If a parent tells me they just know something is not right with their child, then they have my undivided attention. We are going to get to the bottom of that!
Finally what do you see? Are there any obvious deformities of your child’s arms or legs? If so that’s easy, a medical school diploma is not required for that diagnosis. Of course you are heading to the doctor for that! You may find it helpful to grab a good magazine (No, it’s not to read as you wait in the doctor’s office). Fold the magazine in half to make a splint for the injury, add ice to where it hurts, and go get in the car! Oh and don’t stop along the way for drinks and snacks. In fact its best to not let your child eat or drink anything in case anesthesia should be required.
The challenge is that many injuries are more subtle. If your child has any extremity tenderness or swelling, there could well be a fracture present. In fact if you call me with the news that your child has sustained a trauma, and they have tenderness or swelling of an extremity, especially adjacent to a joint, I will tell you that your child very likely has a fracture. Children have these amazing little structures in their bones called growth plates. While growth plates are part of the bone structure, they are actually cartilage. They generate new cells which then turn to bone, and this is how our bones get longer as we grow. Typically the growth plates are the weakest structure in the extremity. Like a chain that breaks at the weakest link, the growth plate will fail or fracture more frequently than the surrounding tissue, including the ligaments. If a child has had a trauma resulting in pain or swelling around the ends of their bones where the growth plates typically reside, the standard of care is to consider that a fracture, even if the X-rays are normal. Treatment is usually a cast or splint for several weeks.
If anything you hear, feel, or see regarding your child makes you suspicious for more than a minor injury, then call us at 615-771-1116 to get an expedited work-in appointment. We realize that patients don’t plan their injuries very well, so we are staffed to see and help our patients on short notice. Remember that magazine trick for making a splint. If your kids are like mine it will come in handy one day!