What Is A Splint And How To Splint An Injury


Table of Contents

What Is A Splint

In emergency situations, anything that provides stability and support can be used to splint an injury. But what injuries require a splint, and how do you improvise one if you don’t have a dedicated splint for the injury you are dealing with?

A splint is any device used to support or keep in place any suspected fracture occurring along the limbs. There are two types of splints: Flexible and Rigid.

Rigid Splints consist of any rigid object that doesn’t allow for movement or bend. Items like sticks, wood planks, plastic, chopping boards, inflatable splints, broomsticks, crowbars, long shifters etc. Anything that prevents the injured site from moving when placed on either side of the broken bone or injury site as a precaution passes for a rigid splint. You can adapt and use whatever you have to hand in your immediate surroundings where applicable.

Flexible Splints consist of any flexible items that act to cushion the injury site, like a pillow, clothing, towel, or duct tape. This type of splint is most commonly used for shoulder, collar bone and arm injuries. They can be used to cradle or secure the injured arm against the body to prevent accidentally knocking or injuring the limb with bumping or movement.

When Should A Splint Be Used

Splint a broken leg video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udB00Ll6hO0

Splint a broken arm video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ot7c3syPtr4

To provide immediate security of the limb and prevent further movement. By stabilising the limb, you will provide some degree of pain reduction in the fractured limb.

Splinting open or compound fractures where the broken bone sticks through the skin and is exposed leaves sharp edges that can further cut into the surrounding flesh, creating more unnecessary damage to the tissue. A splint helps prevent the bone from moving and exacerbating the compound site.

Splints are used to facilitate safe transport of the causality. By splinting the injury, you can protect the limb and reduce the chances of unwanted bumps and movement, especially if you are in a remote location and your ride out is bumpy and full of potholes.

If you don’t have any splinting material around, securing both legs together at the feet or knees, depending on where the fracture is located, will provide a makeshift splint, and keep the legs together, allowing for the non-injured leg to act as a splint. Use a rag, a tee-shirt, a bra, bootlaces, a tie, or anything with enough length to tie together around the injured limb.

Are Medical Sling And Bandages A Type Of Splint

Yes. These are called flexible splints. If you ever wondered what that triangle bandage in your First Aid Kit is for, it is used as a sling to support and splint arm injuries or tie feet together. A medical sling is a piece of cloth used to immobilise a fractured arm and often in lieu of having a rigid splint but can be used in conjunction with a rigid splint to secure the arm to the body in a comfortable manner.

The sling usually takes a large triangle shape, with the pointy end always placed towards the elbow. If you don’t have a triangle bandage, you can use a normal crepe bandage and carefully bandage the arm against the body, wrapping the entire limb to the chest as if you were wrapping a mummy. If the fracture is compound, wrap either side of the exposed fracture and leave room for the ring bandage, so you can observe and apply even pressure to control the bleeding.

Basic Principles For Splinting A Limb

There is no specific art to applying a splint. Anyone can do it. However, having First Aid training under your belt will allow you to know exactly what to do, where to secure and tie the knots, and how to control the bleeding. If your First Aid skills are rusty or non-existent, now is the perfect time to use the long nights and take a nationally approved and certified First Aid course.

There are as many ways to splint as there are to skin a cat, but they all start with the basics.

  • Identify the fracture site.
  • Where there is external bleeding, control the bleeding but avoid pressing directly on the fractured site. Use a ring bandage to contain the fracture, and then apply gentle but firm pressure to the ring bandage that will push down on the area under and around the fracture to control the bleeding. Never remove the bloody pads; just add another to the top of the full one so the advanced medical team can get an idea of how much blood has been lost and needs to be replaced.
  • In case of open or compound bone fractures where the bone ends protrude through the skin, do not attempt to push the ends back into place. There is a specific way of retracting compound fractures requiring advanced First Aid knowledge and certification. If you attempt to force the bone back into the limb, you will cause infection in the area. You will further damage the ends of the break, increasing the bleeding as you inadvertently damaged previously undamaged tissue.

When applying the splint, keep the fractured bone, including the joints above and below the fracture site, motionless where possible, as indicated below.

If the lower arm is fractured, keep the wrist and elbow joints motionless.

If the upper arm is fractured, keep the shoulder and elbow joints motionless.

If the lower leg is fractured, keep the knee and ankle joints motionless.

If the upper leg is fractured, keep the knee and hip joint motionless.

Compound fracture of the femur is a critical life-threatening injury, and evacuation to a hospital A.S.A.P. is essential and cannot be delayed. This type of fracture is what you call air support for if you are at sea or hiking in the wilderness. Time is of the essence. A tourniquet will be required to stop the bleeding if the femoral artery has been ruptured.

The splint should be tied firmly but not cut circulation to the fractured limb.

Once you have splinted the limb, check for a pulse and blood circulation at the point below the injury to ensure the splinting is not too tight. Correct splinting will provide some level of pain reduction.

Keep it motionless if the fractured limb is bent with a sharp bone end protruding through the skin. The terms open fracture and compound fracture are the same things. Bone fractures are usually classified as simple or compound. Simple (or closed) fractures mean there is no break through of the skin and, therefore, no exposure of the broken bone outside the body. Compound (or open) fractures are when the bone either punctures through the skin or otherwise can be seen outside the body where it should not naturally be seen.

Splint a limb as you find it to make it as comfortable for the patient as possible.

If an ambulance has been called and will arrive within fifteen minutes, do not splint the fractured limb. Wait for the ambulance team to use their specialised medical splints. If you are a little more remote than the city with easy access to an ambulance or emergency room, splint once you have controlled the bleeding to stabilise the injury and provide comfort to the injured person.

In most cases, fractures are excruciatingly painful at the point of breaking. 

The immediate severity will reduce within the first minute, but the break will still, in most cases, be considered agony by the person. They may say things or behave in a manner not normal due to that pain and the adrenaline released into their bloodstream. While it is possible to continue doing what you were doing with a simple, closed fracture, it is not advised!

 In some cases, people with high pain tolerance levels or people who have hairline fractures may have suffered a fracture and not know it is a fracture for several days before seeking treatment. Fingers frequently break in children who play basketball and are often dismissed by parents and not X-rayed or treated correctly by Buddy Taping the injured finger to the one next to it as a splint.

Buddy taping video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBbLNUxYbCk

Lastly, not all broken bones are agony to endure after the initial breaking of the bone. For this reason, it is possible for anyone to sustain a fracture and not know they have a fractured bone. Motorcyclists forced to drop their bikes frequently sustain fractures, then get up and ride off, mistakenly believing they are not hurt, only to find out hours later, when the adrenaline has worn off, they are in considerable and growing pain and have suffered broken bones.  

If you are in doubt, have suffered an injury, or suspect there is a chance you might have broken the bone, it is always better to seek professional advice and get an X-ray to rule out a fracture. Fractures that go untreated can deform the bone as it calcifies, creating issues in the limb and incurring a range of osteoarthritis symptoms. In extreme cases, it can require surgical intervention to re-break the bone and set it correctly.

Take A First Aid Course

Now is the perfect time to take on new activities and broaden your knowledge and skillset by taking a First Aid course. First Aid is something every person on the planet should learn from a young age. With Basic First Aid courses from under $100, becoming a potential lifesaver has never been so affordable!

One weekend is all it takes to transform your life and give you the skills to save others. Don’t live with the regret and guilt of not being able to save a life because you didn’t know what to do. Visit our First Aid Course Experts Blog page and read up on a wide range of First Aid topics for motivation and inspiration prior to taking your First Aid course with FACE.

Book your place on the next available FACE course in your area.

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