In my previous Quick Tips post I addressed how to distinguish between ante, peri and post-mortem fractures, click here if you haven’t read it yet.
In this Quick Tips post I will show you some ways to identify and deduce common fracture types and their key characteristics. The definition of a fracture is a break in the continuity of a bone. There are three major causes of fractures: acute injury (an accident); underlying disease which then weakens the bone making it susceptible to fractures; and repeated stress (as seen in athletes).
All fracture types can be placed in two categories; open and closed. An open fracture, also known as a compound fracture, is where the bone breaks through the skin causing an open wound. It is called an open fracture as there is an open connection between the fracture site and skin. A closed fracture is where the bone has no connection between the outer skin surface and the fractured bone itself; it does not cause an open wound. A closed fracture is classed as a ‘simple fracture’.
Basic Fracture Types:
A) Transverse Fracture: This is when the break of a fracture is in a horizontal line, it is the simplest fracture type.
B) Oblique Fracture: This fracture is a break which extends in a slanting direction. Oblique fractures are caused by indirect or rotational force.
C) Spiral Fracture: As you can guess from the name, this is a fracture which is characterised by a spiral. It is often denoted as being caused by torsion or force onto the bone.
D) Comminuted Fracture: A comminuted fracture is characterised from the splintering of the bone. This causes the fracture to be made up of two or more pieces. This fracture is common in road-traffic accidents and these fractures are less likely to heal in a functionally satisfactory manner.
E) Greenstick Fracture: This occurs when a transverse fracture is incomplete. This fracture is seen mainly in children due to their young, immature bones which rarely break the whole width.
F) Impacted Fracture: This occurs when the bone is broken and not displaced but the two fractured ends are forced together. This produces a rather stable fracture which can heal readily but there may be some length lost.
This post was put together by using knowledge from my degree and supplemented with the textbook ‘The Archaeology of Disease’ by Charlotte Roberts & Keith Manchester. If you’re interested in the latest scientific and archaeological techniques used to understand the diseases of past populations, you should check it out!