young boy cradling his broken arm, which is in a cast

How Do You Know If Your Child’s Forearm Is Broken?

When it comes to children, accidents and injuries are not uncommon. Among these, forearm fractures rank high on the list due to falls, sports injuries, or direct blows to the arm. Understanding the signs and symptoms of a broken forearm can help parents and guardians take swift action, ensuring their child receives the necessary care and treatment.

The Signs of a Forearm Fracture

Your child comes to you, cradling their elbow in their hand, and complains that their arm hurts. Your first thought is a fracture, but you don’t want to jump to any conclusions. So, how do you know when your child has actually broken their arm?

A forearm fracture can present itself in a variety of ways, depending on the severity and type of fracture. Here are the most common signs that your child’s forearm might be broken:

  • Immediate, Severe Pain: Immediately after the injury occurred, did your child complain of intense pain shooting through their arm? Your child will likely express discomfort or inability to use the affected arm normally if a bone is broken.
  • Swelling and Bruising: Following an injury, swelling and bruising usually develop quickly and can worsen over time if left untreated.
  • Deformity or Abnormal Shape: A visible deformity or unusual shape can indicate that the bones are misaligned.
  • Difficulty Moving the Arm: If your child is unable to move their forearm or wrist or has trouble making a fist, this could be a sign of a broken forearm.
  • Numbness or Tingling: Numbness or tingling in the forearm, hand, or fingers can occur if the fracture impacts the nerves within the arm.

The Importance of Prompt Evaluation and Treatment

If you suspect your child has a broken forearm based on the symptoms described above, seek medical attention right away. Delaying diagnosis and treatment can lead to complications, such as improper healing, decreased functionality, or even permanent damage. An arm specialist experienced in handling injuries will conduct a thorough examination, which may include imaging tests like X-rays, to confirm the presence of a fracture and determine its severity.

The Types of Forearm Fractures in Children

The forearm consists of two bones: the ulna and the radius. These bones extend from the wrist to the elbow. When your child breaks his or her forearm, the fracture will involve one or both of these bones. The fracture could be diagnosed as one of the following:

  • Greenstick Fracture: Similar to a young, green branch bending, this fracture involves a partial break, where one side of the bone cracks while the other side only bends. These are incomplete fractures common in children due to their more flexible bones.
  • Torus (Buckle) Fracture: This type of fracture occurs when one side of the bone is compressed, causing it to buckle without breaking completely. It affects the growth plate.
  • Galeazzi or Monteggia Fracture: These types of fractures involve both the radius and ulna. With the Galeazzi fracture, the radius breaks and the ulna dislocates from the wrist. With a Monteggia fracture, the ulna breaks and the radius is dislocated from the elbow.
  • Growth Plate Fracture: The growth plates, located near the ends of long bones, are areas of cartilage that enable bones to grow. Fractures involving the growth plate can affect bone development and may require special attention to prevent long-term complications. 
  • Open Fractures: Although less common, open fractures occur when a bone breaks through the skin. They require immediate medical attention due to the higher risk of infection.

How Broken Forearms Are Treated

Treatment aims to ensure that the bone heals correctly and maintains its proper alignment for full function. Treatments can range from non-invasive methods to surgical interventions:


In cases where the bone is displaced, a process called reduction is necessary. This can be a closed reduction, where the bone is realigned externally under sedation or anesthesia, or an open reduction if the fracture is more severe, which involves surgical intervention to align the bones properly.

Casting and Splinting

For stable fractures like a torus fracture and some greenstick fractures, a cast or splint may be sufficient to hold the bone in place while it heals. The duration of this immobilization varies depending on the age of the child and the specific fracture but typically ranges from four to eight weeks.

Surgical Intervention

Severe fractures, especially those involving the growth plates or resulting in significant displacement, may require surgical insertion of pins, plates, or rods to maintain proper alignment during healing.

Physical Therapy

After immobilization, physical therapy is often recommended to restore strength, flexibility, and range of motion. This is an essential part of recovery, especially to ensure the child can return to normal activities without limitations.

Turn to Our Experts for Comprehensive Care

Do you need help diagnosing and treating a possible forearm fracture? Our team of dedicated professionals can offer personalized care plans tailored to meet the unique needs of your child. For help with wrist, arm, and shoulder injuries, call the Philadelphia Hand to Shoulder Center today!

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