Prime Time for Broken Bones

Today's kids are breaking arm bones far more often than did kids just 30 years ago.

Kids will be kids. They climb trees. They ride skateboards down steps.

They jump off swing-sets. No matter how often adults warn them to be careful, accidents occur and bones break. That’s happened generation after generation.

There’s a new reason now to pay attention to warnings, however. A recent study found that young people today are breaking their forearms far more often than kids did just 30 years ago.


The bones of the forearm and hand.


Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., looked at medical records from the Rochester area during two 3-year blocks: 1968–1971 and 1998–2001. Overall, there were 42 percent more forearm fractures during the more recent period. The study included people up to age 35, but most breaks happened between ages 10 and 16.

Breaks during sports and other recreational activities increased the most, doubling over the 30-year period. In males, there was a sharp increase in fracture-inducing accidents during inline skating, skateboarding, skiing, hockey, and bicycling. Females broke significantly more bones from skating, skiing, soccer, and basketball.

Kids might be more active than they used to be, which is one possible explanation for the trend. Diet could be another reason.

More young people today drink soda and sweetened juices instead of calcium-rich milk. Calcium helps build strong bones.

At the same time, the inactive lifestyle of some kids may also contribute to the problem. Today’s kids may be more out of shape from too much time spent playing video games, watching TV, and snacking. When they go out to play, they may be more likely to fall and break a limb.

So, when you go out to play, consider wearing a helmet and other protective gear. At dinner, make sure you eat enough calcium. And it might make sense to listen to adults when they tell you to watch out.—E. Sohn

Going Deeper:

Seppa, Nathan. 2003. Broken arms way up. Science News 164(Oct. 4):221. Available at .

Raloff, Janet. 2003. The risks in sweet solutions to young thirsts. Science News Online (Sept. 27). Available at .

You can learn “the facts about broken bones” at (KidsHealth for Kids).

Teachers: A lesson plan for grades 6-8 on the topic of broken bones can be found at (Discovery Channel).

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