"Don't break a leg!" What to do in the event of sprains, strains and fractures

NOTE: This article was modified on January 19, 2022.

Take care of strains, sprains and fractures with these tipsAlthough winter sports are lots of fun and essential for keeping away the winter blues, they can also cause sprains, strains, and broken bones.

If you watch anxiously as your child practices freestyle on the slopes or figure skates, these first aid tips will help you prepare for any unfortunate accident that could arise.

Sprains and strains

Minor sprains and strains can be treated at home, but more serious sprains should be looked at by a doctor.

What to do

  1. Call 9-1-1 if you suspect a head, neck or back injury, if the injury makes walking difficult, if it is a thigh bone or pelvis injury or if the person is no longer fully conscious.
  2. Ask the person to stay still and have them rest comfortably.
  3. Immobilize the injured limb in the position in which it was found.
  4. Apply a cold compress to the injured area for 20 minutes every hour for the first 24 to 48 hours. If you’re using ice cubes, wrap them in a cloth or towel to prevent direct contact with the skin.
  5. If possible and not too painful, elevate the injured limb above the heart.
  6. Seek medical attention.

How to recognize a fracture

If you observe any of the following symptoms, call an ambulance:
  • Acute pain or tenderness.
  • Limb deformity.
  • Loss of circulation in a limb (fingers or toes are turning white or blue).
  • Loss of sensation in a limb (ask the injured person if they can feel their fingers or toes being pinched).
  • Swelling or change of colour in a limb.
  • The person heard a cracking sound.

What to do

  1. Immobilize the fractured limb without moving the person. Use bath towels or blankets to keep the limb in place.
  2. Apply ice wrapped in a piece of cloth to the injured area for 15 minutes every hour.
  3. Call 9-1-1.
  4. Comfort the person and keep them warm.
Please note that these tips provided by our Prevention and Safety team are for reference only and are not a substitute for first aid training. To find a course near you, click here.
You can also download the free Red Cross First Aid app to always have practical resources at your fingertips.

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