The adult skeletal system is composed of 206 bones. A baby is born with 300 to 305 bones in total, some of which fuse together to come to a total of 206 bones by the time the child is nine years old.
The skeletal system provides the body with the proper shape and frame that it requires to work properly, other functions include support, blood cell production and storage of calcium.
Injuries to the skeletal system are common amongst people of all shapes, ages and sizes and mostly occur due to stress and trauma on the bone and bone tissue. The most common skeletal injuries are sprains, fractures, dislocations and bone bruises.
Bone bruises occur when the impacted force during an injury puncture and break the small blood vessel and associated bone tissue causing them to leak around the affected area resulting into swelling that usually lasts for a couple of weeks. It is important to follow up with a physician to ascertain that there is no further damage to the area.
Sprains occur when excess pressure on a joint causes the ligaments that hold the bone together to stretch unnaturally and beyond its own capacity. The pressure can be caused by falling, twisting, taking a knock or getting hit. The severity ranges from 1st degree (overstretched ligaments), 2nd degree (extensive ligament tear) and 3rd degree (completely torn ligaments). Symptoms of sprains are pain, swelling, bruising and immobility of the joint. Treatment of sprains involves resting the injured area, icing and using compressive devices and bandages. Exercise and physiotherapy are also recommended as later treatment.
Joint dislocations occur when extreme pressure is applied on the ligaments causing the bone to shift and move out of the proper alignment. This is usually accompanied by damaged ligaments and bone fractures.
Fractured bones are commonly referred to as broken bones. The most common causes of fractures are trauma, osteoporosis (a disorder that weakens bones) and overuse which causes stress fractures. Common forms of fractures include;
- Simple fractures. These are broken bones that are inside the skin.
- Compound or open fractures. Broken bones that protrude or pierce through the skin.
- Stress fractures. Results from overuse and is common among athletes due to over-training.
- Comminuted fractures. This is where the bone breaks into three or more complete pieces. Usually treated surgically with the insertion of screws and plates to re-set the bones.
- Depressed fracture. Usually occurs on the skull as a result of the broken bone being displaced inwards due to blunt force trauma.
Children and toddlers have more elastic and sensitive bones and usually experience two forms of fractures;
- Bowing fractures. Where the bone bends but does not break.
- Green-stick fractures. The bone bends and cracks but does not break. It is one of the most difficult skeletal injuries to diagnose.
Fractures usually take 4-6 weeks to heal and are treated by immobilizing the affected areas using a brace, cast or splint.
The more serious and severe skeletal injuries usually require surgery where some hardware is used to re-set the bones. This includes metal pins, plates and screws. The most severe fractures and dislocations require permanent placement while less severe injuries require temporary placement until the bones are healed.