Fracture is the medical term for a broken bone. There is no difference between a crack, a fracture or a break. Fractures are extremely painful with swelling, may be deformed and the player will be reluctant or find it too painful to move the limb.

Occasionally, both you and they may notice a very painful grinding sensation from the broken ends rubbing together. Any bone in the body can break, but common sites in contact sports are the collarbone, the wrist, the hand or the ankle. A broken bone can produce two sharp ends that can damage blood vessels or other soft tissues, or even poke through the skin, causing what is known as an “open” fracture (historically called a compound fracture).

Again, the DR ABC and PRICE principles are the mainstay of treatment, as it will often be difficulty to tell a ligament sprain from a fracture unless there is obvious deformity and a large amount of swelling.

The pain from fractured limbs can often be helped by correctly supporting or “splinting” or the injured limb. Generally, however, if the player is too uncomfortable to move, particularly with lower limb fractures, despite supporting the injured limb, they should remain where they are and wait until more experienced help arrives.


When a bone fractures, the two ends can move about, rubbing against each other and the soft tissues, causing considerable pain and ongoing tissue damage. If there is deformity that is stretching the soft tissues, this is also significantly painful.

Therefore, providing support to the whole limb to minimise the amount of movement at the fracture site provides pain relief and prevents further damage. Support can be provided simply with the rescuer’s hands against the ground, or by improvising such as using a folded newspaper inside a sling, or with dedicated splints such as mouldable metal splints or foam “box splints”. The principle of splinting is that the “splint” should support the joint above and below the fracture.

A player with a suspected fracture to the leg is removed from the field of play