Broken Bone Vs Sprain: What To Look For And When To Act

This past weekend Sissy began a new journey for our family. I officially became a soccer mom when my four year old started her very first season of soccer. She’s excited, I am excited, the whole family is excited and I can’t wait to see her in her tiny uniform. But I’ll let you in on a little secret – I am also paranoid that entry into this new world of team sports will lead to our family’s first major injury and a visit to the ER. How do you know when an injury is a broken bone vs sprain?

First Day Playing Soccer

This post is sponsored by Kids Urgent Care.

So far this family has been serious-accident free. Sure, the kids have scrapped their knees and cried buckets of tears, but nothing resulting in any serious. As we dive head-first into the world of team sports, that could change. (By the way, I know that my ballerina could also be the first to injure herself, but team sports worry me more than a dance studio.)

For those of us who have little to no experience with broken bones, I spoke with Dr. Patricia Lewis from Kids Urgent Care to find out what we should look for in case of an injury. Is it a broken bone vs sprain, when to let it rest and when to take action? 

Broken Bone vs Sprain

Broken Bone vs Sprain

Outside of a very obvious break where you can see the displacement or hear a break or pop (Eek!), Dr. Lewis told me that it is often very hard to tell, even for a doctor. Both a break and a sprain can can look the same with swelling, pain and point tenderness, and very often kids don’t want to move. The only way to know for sure if it is a broken bone vs sprain is with an x-ray.

“People often think, ‘If it was broken then my child wouldn’t be able do XYZ.’ But kids will surprise you. I once had a two year old walking around, and it turned out the child’s leg was broken,” Dr. Lewis said.

The good news is that even if there is a break, there is usually no harm in waiting a few days. The key is to practice RICE – rest, ice, compression and elevate. If symptoms don’t improve after a couple of days with RICE and Ibuprofen, it’s time to get things checked out.  

Dr. Lewis also noted that you should always treat an injury with ice for the first 24 hours and heat after that. 

Wether the injury is a break or a sprain, it is important to give the body time to heal before returning to a sport. A bad sprain can take weeks to heal, and longer if it is reinjured before it has a chance to heal all the way.

Although you can’t fully prevent an injury like a break or sprain, there are things you can do to keep your child in tip-top shape.

  • Make sure kids stretch before play.
  • Pay attention to how much kids are doing, stress injuries are often associated with more than one sport.
  • Make sure kids aren’t getting dehydrated, which can make them more prone to injury.

Wish us luck as my family embarks on its first season of team sports. Just in case we need it, we have a newly opened Kids Urgent Care that specializes in pediatric urgent-care needs. Although I hope I don’t have to visit one any time soon, it is nice to know there is a place we can go when the doctor is closed to have our kids checked out for a variety of injuries and illnesses including minor breaks and sprains until midnight. 

Kids Urgent Care 2


One lucky winner will receive a $50 gift card to Academy Sports to help you prepare for your kiddo’s sports season. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter below.

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77 thoughts on “Broken Bone Vs Sprain: What To Look For And When To Act”

  1. I have 6 grandchildren and 1 is 6′ 8″ and a basketball player, 3 are gymnasts and there are always injuries of some sort. Luckily we have escaped any broken bones or really serious ones.

  2. Both of my girls play soccer and luckily we haven’t had any serious injuries yet. I sprained my ankle playing volleyball in HS and broke my arm in first grade sledding, though!

  3. Both of my daughters play soccer, but fortunately we haven’t had any injuries. I sprained my ankle playing high school volleyball and broke my arm sledding in the first grade.

  4. My oldest daughter plays travel softball but thankfully has not broken any bones. My youngest daughter doesn’t really play any sports but has broken her right arm twice. Go figure! lol

  5. Both my kids did lots of sports. My daughter injured each of her arms two different years, ended up in a cast both times. She had indented bones one time, and the other it was a hairline fracture. Both injuries were just on the playground, not during sports.

  6. My older son played baseball for many years and got hit in the hand with a baseball and had to have surgery on one of his fingers. Hard to see your child hurting.

  7. My kids played baseball, basketball, football, & cheerleading but never broke any bones. Me, on the other hand broke my wrist when I was standing on my head 🙂

  8. My kids do Gymnastics, Skating (ice), and soccer. No major injuries yet, but they still have time to play hard, work hard.

  9. My son is 11. He plays baseball and soccer. No broken bones yet, but I have seen some happen. Great prize! Thanks so much for the opportunity!

  10. My daughter is into softball right now. She hasn’t had any broken bones yet, lol but I know it’s bound to happen eventually.

  11. My son plays football and has played soccer.My daughter was in cheer leading,soccer, and basketball. They never had a broken bone

  12. My kids play soccer . They also do karate and bowling.. No they havent broken anything yet and hopefully never do.


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