The bones most likely to fracture during simple falls, hiking accidents and sports injuries are the two below your knee; the tibia or shinbone—the larger of the two—and the fibula. Of all our bones in the body, the tibia is most likely to break. Generally a fracture in these two bones is not life threatening. However, if you suspect someone has broken his or her leg, seek medical attention so a doctor can X-Ray the injury and prescribe the best treatment.
Speaking from experience, you probably know if you have broken a bone. The pain is intense and you may even hear a cracking sound when the accident happens. Sometimes the fractured bone breaks the skin. Other breaks might not be as severe and the victim will experience only mild pain, swelling or bruising. Other symptoms of a fractured leg include an obvious deformation, twisting, unable to walk or put weight on the leg, or a dangling or awkward position of the foot.
Until you can get medical help, you can put a splint on the fractured leg in order to prevent further injury and restrict the movement of the leg. The slightest movement from broken leg bones could possibly cut an artery.
To splint a broken leg, follow these 10 simple steps:
- Have the victim lie down and help them elevate the leg if possible.
- Control bleeding by applying direct pressure on the wound with gauze or other soft cloth for 15 minutes.
- Once bleeding is controlled, put a bandage on the wound.
- Do not reposition the fracture.
- Using a SAM splint, secure the joints in the leg above and below the fracture. If you do not have a SAM splint, find two sticks, boards or even pillows will work, as long as they are at least the length of leg from the ankle to the top of the knee.
- Place the splints on either side of the leg.
- Secure the splint to the leg using ties. Begin by placing two strips of cloth under the leg—one at the top of the leg and one at the bottom of the leg right above the ankle. Bring the two ends of your cloth to the front of the leg and tie into a knot. Do this at the top and at the bottom.
- On the bottom of the leg, cross the ankle with the tie, bring it under the foot, and back around on top for support.
- After securing the splint, make sure you have not tied it so tight that it cuts off the patience’s circulation. Check for a pulse in their foot and ask them to wriggle or move their toes.
- Treat the victim for shock if necessary or apply an ice pack to the leg to help ease pain and swelling.
For more on treating basic accidents and injuries, read these blog posts:
- First Aid 101: Fishing Accidents
- First Aid 101: Treating Burns
- Basic First Aid Typical Camping Accidents
- Heat Related Illnesses: Prevention and Treatment
- Pesky Mosquitoes, Scorpions, Bees and Other Critters that Bite and Sting
Have you broken your leg out in the field? What did you do to treat it? Share your story with us in the comment section.