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Tips to Prevent Compound Fractures in Action Sports

BMX rider in the air

As the temperature heats up, active sports-enthusiasts turn their focus to the outdoors for exercise, competition, and thrill-seeking. The X-Games, which just took place in Los Angeles, showcases some of the finest athletes in the world performing on the largest stage for their respective sports. Many of these sports pre-dispose athletes to high-energy injuries uncommon in many other sports arenas.

While action sports athletes sustain similar injuries to classic competitive athletes (e.g., ACL injuries, ankle sprains, rotator cuff tears), the potential for high-energy blunt trauma is greater. Open (e.g., compound) fractures occur when the skin over the broken bone is torn, exposing the fracture to the air and external environment; this situation is more common in a high-energy injury.

Open fractures should be treated as an emergency because of the risk of infection. High-energy open leg fractures have infection rates that approach 50%. Infections in the setting of fracture place patients at a much increased risk of not healing the bone and soft tissue properly, requiring multiple surgeries to correct the problem. Patients must be evaluated quickly – antibiotic medication and cleaning of the wound should be performed as soon as possible.

The Orthopedic Trauma Service at HSS treats patients with open fractures. Our patients are evaluated head-to-toe, as there are often associated injuries in other parts of the body. We work closely with our colleagues from Trauma, Neurological and Plastic Surgery to provide our injured patients with the best care possible to decrease their risks of complications.

As an avid skier on both water and snow, I protect myself as best as possible to decrease my chances of suffering high-energy trauma. This includes wearing a helmet and making sure visibility and weather conditions are safe. If you had a chance to watch the X-Games, you saw that the athletes wear protective gear to shield themselves from injury, I recommend the same for people in the community actively involved in these sports.

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.