Did I Break the Bone or Just Fracture It?
Medical Author: Benjamin C. Wedro, MD, FAAEM
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Yadier Molina broke his wrist in May 2007 while catching for the St. Louis
Cardinals, and some may be surprised that he may not have been casted for a few
days. And while I don't understand the rules for baseball's injury reserve list
(why was he put on the 15 day disabled list, when the team knows he will be out
for four to six weeks?), I do however, know what's going on with
First a few quick definitions.
- Broken, cracked, or fractured all mean the same thing, that the
integrity of the bone is no longer intact. One term is not worse than
another. How many times have people thanked me that their ankle wasn't
broken, just fractured! I have to remind myself to do the definition list at
the bedside as well.
- Fractures can be displaced or non-displaced, and this attempts to
explain whether the bones are aligned properly. Some amount of displacement
is allowed depending on which bone is broken and where in the bone the break
occurs. The body can remodel bones as they heal, so displaced does not
automatically equal having to "set" the bones.
- Setting means reducing or realigning the bones so they look and
function better. The vast majority of fractures that have to be reduced will
have that procedure done under anesthesia. And sometimes, bones that appear
well aligned right after the injury may move and then require reduction
- Finally, if the skin over the fracture is lacerated or torn, this is
considered an open fracture and will need to be cleaned out, because
outside world has invaded the break and the risk of infection is high.