Fractures and Dislocations

Fractures and dislocations are among the most common injuries in orthopedics. Both occur when the overwhelming stress of an impact is greater than the ability of either a bone or a joint to absorb it.

A fracture is a break in a bone. A dislocation is the malaligned placement of the two opposing bones that meet to form a joint. If not properly treated, long-term problems could occur.

Men are most vulnerable to fractures and dislocations prior to the age of 45, as a result of the sports and other rigorous activities in which they engage. After the age of 45, women become the most vulnerable, primarily because of hormonal changes negatively impacting bone density.


Composed of bone cells, proteins and minerals like calcium, a number of factors affect a bones susceptibility to a fracture. Bone health is affected by genetics, age, diet and exercise. Muscle helps protect bone and preserve bone density that becomes threatened with age.

The most common causes of a bone fracture are forceful impacts from a fall or a blow, overuse, and osteoporosis.

The most common fracture in those under the age of 65 is a wrist fracture, because of the instinctual nature to hold hands out to shield from an impact or cushion a fall. And among the most common wrist fractures are; a distal radius fracture, which impacts the part of the long arm radius bone at the wrist, or distal end, and a scaphoid fracture, which is a harder wrist bone to fracture yet a more delicate one to repair.

Athletes experience a higher number of upper extremity fractures and dislocations than the non athlete, because of either the repetitive nature of their position, such as throwing a ball, or the forceful nature of their sport, such as football.

Types of Fractures
The manner in which a fracture is defined depends on the severity of the fracture and its impact on surrounding tissue. Some fractures may only cause a slight crack in the bone, while others involving a violent force may result in a shattered bone.

Another distinguishing characteristic that will help determine the best care and treatment option is whether the broken bone pierces the skin (open or compound fracture), or not (closed or simple).

Other classifications defining the type of fracture sustained include:

  • Transverse Fracture - A fracture at right angles to the long axis of the bone.
  • Greenstick Fracture - A fracture on one side of the bone, which causes the other side to bend. These types of fractures are most commonly found in children
  • Comminuted Fracture - A fracture resulting in three or more bone fragments
  • Intra-articular Fracture - A fracture that involves the joint

Further examination by the physician will define the fracture in greater detail based on the location of the break on the bone and the damage, if any, to surrounding ligaments and other soft tissue.