Broken Arm

You can have peace of mind knowing that the skilled experts in our Orthopedic Center's Hand and Orthopedic Upper Extremity Program have treated thousands of babies and children with many arm conditions. We provide expert diagnosis, treatment, and care, and we benefit from our advanced clinical and scientific research.

Read the information in the following pages to learn more about diagnosis and treatment that Boston Children's Hospital provides for every type and severity of broken arm in children. 

The anatomy of the arm includes the glenohumeral joint, scapula, humerous, trochlea, ulna, and radius.What are broken arms?

A broken arm occurs when there is a crack or break in one (or more) of the three bones in the arm: the humerus, radius, or ulna. Broken arms are often caused by an impact injury, such as from a fall (as when a child uses his outstretched arm to break a fall) or a direct blow.

A simple break in the arm is usually treated with a splint or cast, while more complex breaks may require surgery. With proper treatment, broken arms can heal completely. Full use of the arm is often regained within a couple weeks after the final cast is removed.

What are the different bones of the arm?

The arm is made up of two parts. The upper arm refers to the part of the limb between the shoulder and elbow. The lower arm (forearm) refers to the part of the limb between the elbow and the wrist.

  • Ulna: The ulna runs from the tip of the elbow to the little finger side of the wrist.
  • Radius: The radius is bigger and longer than the ulna, and runs from the elbow to the wrist.
  • Humerus: The humerus is the long bone in the upper arm. One end connects at the shoulder and the other end connects with the radius and ulna at the elbow joint.

Learn more about the different types of fractures in children.

Causes of broken bones

A bone breaks when there’s more force applied to the bone than it can withstand.

Childhood broken arms can be caused by:

  • Falls: Falling onto an outstretched hand is the most common cause of a broken arm.
  • Trauma: Direct trauma to the arm (for example, as a result of a car or bike accident) can cause any of a child’s arm bones to break.
  • Sports injuries: Many broken arms occur as a result of mild to moderate (rather than severe) trauma that happens while children are playing or participating in sports.

What are the signs and symptoms of broken arms in children?

Common signs of a broken arm include:

  • pain or swelling
  • a noticeable abnormality, such as bent arm or wrist
  • difficulty using or moving the arm normally
  • warmth, bruising, or redness