First Aid: Broken Bones

A broken arm in a cast
slgckgc, via Flickr

Liz Waid and Ryan Geertsma give simple instructions and advice about common emergencies. How would you help someone with a broken bone?

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Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Ryan Geertsma.

Voice 2

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand - no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

Imagine this situation. You are walking down a city street. A person on a bicycle rides past you. On his two wheels, he is travelling very fast. But suddenly you hear a terrible noise - an accident! A car has hit the bicycle. Someone is crying with pain. You walk quickly to the accident. The bicycle rider is lying on the ground. His leg is badly injured. It is broken! What would you do?

Voice 2

Treating a hurt person quickly is called first aid. First aid does not require expert medical help – anyone can learn first aid. Today’s Spotlight is the fifth program in a series on first aid. We will be talking about broken bones. How would you help someone with a broken bone?

Voice 1

Broken bones are also called fractures. There are many different kinds of fractures.  But all of them need medical help. You cannot just treat a broken bone yourself. However, first aid is still very important. Treating the victim carefully at the beginning can mean a better recovery later.

Voice 2 

First, look at the break. What treatment does it need? A fracture is sometimes very clear. For example with a broken wrist, you may be able to see that bones do not line up normally. Sometimes, the bone even breaks through the skin. Even when a break is not clear like this, it can be very serious. All fractures should be treated the same way.

Voice 1

After you have looked, stop any bleeding. If there is a bleeding wound, cover it with a clean cloth or bandage. Then press on it lightly. Do this carefully, so that you do not damage any bones. You can also learn more in our program about bleeding injuries.

Voice 2 

When the bleeding has stopped, support the injury. Your main goal is to prevent the broken arm or leg from moving more. Moving can cause the bone to break more. The sharp pieces of bone can also cut and damage soft muscles and nerves. This makes it much more difficult for the injury to heal.

Voice 1 

To support the injury, use a splint. A splint can be anything hard and long. For example, you could use a piece of cardboard from a box, or any smooth piece of wood. You can even use rolled newspapers or magazines. Add something soft to the splint to make it more comfortable - something like blankets or clothes. Tie the arm or leg to the splint. Use any soft material or bandage for these ties. Do not use anything sharp, like wire. Tie two bandages above the break, and two below.

Voice 2 

For an arm or wrist fracture, you can also use a sling. A sling is a piece of cloth. It is shaped like a triangle. You can lie the arm down across the triangle, so that the wrist is at one of the points. Then tie the other two points behind the victim’s neck. The arm will lie across the victim’s chest. The cloth will hold it in place. The wrist should be held higher than the elbow.

Voice 1 

Use ice, so that the injured area does not swell and get larger. Do not put ice directly onto the skin. Instead, place it in a clean cloth, and put the cloth on the skin. This will also ease the victim’s pain.

Voice 2

Now you will be ready to bring the victim to a medical center. There, doctors or nurses can set the bone - they can get the bones back to their correct position. Do not try to straighten the break yourself. Pulling on the broken bone can cause more damage. If the break is very bad, the victim may even need an operation.

Voice 1

Finally there are a few things you should never do. Do not encourage the victim to move the injured area, to find out if it is broken. This can cause more damage. Do not rub the area around the break. This could cause more damage to the bones. Do not move the person without the support of a splint. And do not give the victim anything to eat. If he does need an operation, this can cause problems.

Voice 2 

Broken bones can happen in many different situations. Kimberly Stubbs is 17 years old. She studies sports science, and she learned first aid at a young age. She also leads a sports group, teaching other young people. It was in this group that she used her first aid training. One day, one of her students had a very bad fall. Her student broke her arm. The bone damaged an artery - one of the main tubes that carry blood through the body. The student was bleeding a lot. It was a dangerous situation. Kimberly told her local newspaper about the accident.

Voice 3

“It was a bad fall. Blood was pouring out of her arm. It made me afraid. But my first thought was to put pressure on the wound, to stop the bleeding. I knew she could lose too much blood too quickly. Luckily this did stop the bleeding. I had to keep the pressure on until the emergency workers arrived. They took her to the hospital where she had an operation. Luckily she has recovered well. She comes back to the group, so I still teach her every week.”

Voice 1

Without Kimberly’s help, the student would have died. Kimberly stopped the bleeding. But she also did not do anything to make the injury worse. She did not move the student. And she did not try to treat the break herself. Kimberly’s first aid training made all the difference. She said,

Voice 3

“It makes me proud that I have used my first aid experience to help save a life.”

Voice 2

There are many different kinds of accidents. Each of them needs different first aid help. The right, quick action can save a person’s life.

Voice 1

In another program we will look at first aid for some other injuries and accidents. If you are interested in first aid, you can learn more. Ask your local doctor or hospital where you can train in first aid. You never know - you could save a life.

Voice 2

The writer of this program was Christy VanArragon. The producer was Dianna Anderson. The voices you heard were from the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, ‘First Aid: Broken Bones’.

Voice 1

You can also leave your comments on our website. Or you can email us at You can also find us on Facebook - just search for spotlightradio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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Have you ever had a broken bone? Where would you go to treat a broken bone?


Avatar Spotlight
Rain Bows
said on July 18, 2012

This is a very interesting article.
I’ve learn from this series.
This article encourages me to go learn more about first aid at the hospital or with Doctors, that will be pretty useful.
Thanks for your program,

Greetings from Manta-Ecuador.

Avatar Spotlight
jack shin
said on June 25, 2013

yes, we all can save someone’s life! :)
Inspired well!  thank you

Avatar Spotlight
said on June 27, 2013

When I was a student of high school,I was trained a first aid course.I never met and applied first aid for injuried victim.Anyway,we should know how to make first aid to save a life of someone suddently.And you’ll feel happy doing that.

Avatar Spotlight
said on July 23, 2016

i like to learn American English

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on July 27, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Wednesday 27, July 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Christy VanArragon, Dianna Anderson,and Ryan Geertsma:

First of all, I want to thank you to bring us readers and learners of English more one great article. I am amazed about it and the previous ones. Thanks!
No, I never. Thanks God!
However, I have seen many people at the hospital where I work to whom suffered accidents and had their bones broken.
The correct place to treat a broken bone is the hospital in Orthopedics and Traumatology.

Yours regards,
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on August 16, 2019

I never had a broken bone. If in the future I deal with broken bones, I will certainly do not move the victim or attempt to fix the position of the broken bone, but I will immobilize it with some material, perhaps at hand, and provide medical attention immediately.
Thanks again for the helpful and excellent program.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on September 10, 2019

From .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To spotlight program
Subject to answer the questions below
Date Tuesday 10, September 2019
São Paulo city SP Brazil

Dear Ryan Geertsma, Liz Waid, Christy VanArragon, and Dianna Anderson

Thank you for bringing us more one great article.
Question 1 - Have you ever had a broken bone?
Answer 1 - No, I have never had a broken bone. Thanks God!
Question 2 - Where would you go to treat a broken bone?
Answer 2 - Hospital’s emergency.
Your regards,
God bless you
Severino Ramos