This image of Jared Cornelius and his broken arm shows what looks like a forearm fracture.
What exactly is broken in a forearm fracture?
Also called a “both bone forearm fracture”, this injury involves the complete breaking in two of each of the two bones of the forearm: the radius (on the thumb side), and the ulna (on the pinky side).
Remember that break and fracture mean the same thing – these bones are broken in half!
This is different than a wrist fracture – the wrist is technically closer to the hand. The forearm bones are the two long bones between the elbow and the wrist.
How is a forearm fracture treated?
In children, these fractures can be treated with just casting or a couple of pins.
The first thing that happens after the injury is to put the patient’s arm in a temporary splint, usually made of fiberglass. This holds the bones still so the arm doesn’t hurt as much.
In adults, the standard treatment is to take the patient to surgery within a few days and fix each bone with a long metal plate and several screws. This is a fairly significant surgery involving making two large incisions over each bone, and moving muscles and nerves around to get access to the broken bones underneath. Surgery may take 1 or 2 hours and the patient can go home the same day.
How long is the recovery time after a forearm fracture?
An athlete with this injury will not be able to play for at least six weeks after surgery. It takes six weeks for bone to heal after it’s lined up correctly in surgery. After the bone heals, the athlete can return to playing sports.
This video shows how the surgery is typically done. It’s all done on fake bones, but with real plates and screws – nothing gruesome: