With spring comes spring sports season, and with spring sports season comes injury.

Telling a sprained ankle from a broken bone is not always easy, but some time-tested medical guidelines can help your doctor know whether an x-ray is needed.

Broken Bone or Sprain; How to Tell the Difference

Both sprained ankles and broken ankles are extremely painful and usually result from similar injuries. A sprain is an injury to the ligaments that join bones to each other; it can be mild, with just stretching of these structures, or severe, with a complete tear of the ligament.
Ankle sprains and broken ankles both occur when the ankle is bent and stressed at an irregular angle. This usually occurs when you step and land on the inside or outside of the foot. The most common injury occurs when you land on the outside of the foot, stretching the ligaments of the outside of the ankle and sometimes causing the fibula, the small bone on the outside of the leg, to break.

A broken bone will require emergency medical care. Your child might have a broken (fractured) bone if he or she heard or felt a bone snap, has difficulty moving the injured part, or if the injured part moves in an unnatural way or is very painful to the touch. Also, if you see a deformity or a protrudence, chances are it’s a break and you need an x-ray.

How to Treat a Sprain:

After being evaluated, sprains can be treated at home using the RICE method:

Rest the injured body part for at least 24 hours
Ice (or use a cold compress) on the injured body part . Apply for up to 10-15 minutes at a time every few hours for the first few days to prevent swelling.
Compress the area, wearing an ACE bandage for at least 2 days to reduce swelling.
Elevate the injured part above heart level as often as possible to ease swelling, especially towards the end of the day

*Do not apply heat in any form for at least 24 hours after an injury. As heat will increases swelling

How to Treat a Broken Bone:

  • Do not move anyone whose injury involves the neck ,back, or leg, unless he or she is in imminent danger. Movement can cause serious nerve damage. Phone for emergency medical help. If they must be moved, the neck and back must be completely immobilized first, ideally with at least one other person assisting you. Keeping the head, neck, and back in alignment, move the child together as a unit
  •  If they must be moved apply splints around the injured limb to prevent further injury. Leave the limb in the position you find it. The splints should be applied in that position. Splints can be made by using boards, brooms, a stack of newspapers, cardboard, or anything firm, and can be padded with pillows, shirts, towels, or anything soft. Splints must be long enough to extend beyond the joints above and below the fracture.
  • If you see an open break (bone protrudes through the skin) or an obvious deformity under the skin, call 911 immediately.
  • Apply pressure if there is a lot of bleeding, either with a gauze pad or a clean piece of clothing. Don’t clean the wound or try to push back any part of the bone that may be sticking out.
  • Place cold packs or a bag of ice wrapped in cloth on the injured area.
  • Keep the person lying down until medical help arrives. If he or she gets lightheaded, try to position the head at a slightly lower level than the chest, and if you can, lift the legs.

An x-ray will determine whether a bone is broken or sprained. At AFC Urgent Care Hartsdale we have state of the art x-ray equipment and our doctors provide you a copy of the x-ray images on a CD to bring to a specialist. We also set bones with a splint at our urgent care center.

If there is any need for an evaluation, x-ray or treatment feel free to come into our urgent care center at 359 North Central Avenue, Hartsdale.

No appointment necessary, but you might want to register online to save time.