Any suspected fracture (broken bone) or dislocation should be splinted, immobilized, or both. An effective splint helps to prevent further injury and to provide substantial pain relief.
Splints can be ready-made or can be made from basic materials. For example, a person could use branches, boards, layers of cardboard, or a foam sleeping pad. Wrapping materials for the splint can include bandannas; climbing webbing; or torn shirts, pants, or other pieces of clothing. These materials should be wrapped completely around the splinted extremity to secure the splint but should not be so tight as to block circulation.
Unless the person who is injured is in a dangerous setting (for example, in the middle of a road or at the foot of a gully exposed to frequent ice or rock falls), all injuries should be splinted before the person is moved to minimize further injury.
Severely deformed fractured limbs should be straightened if sensation or pulses are impaired prior to splinting. The process of straightening should not worsen the injury.
A basic rule of splinting is that the joint above and below the broken bone should be immobilized to protect the fracture site. For example, if the lower leg is broken, the splint should immobilize both the ankle and the knee.
Pulses and sensation should be checked below the splint at least once per hour. If the person complains of tightness, tingling, or numbness, the wrapping material should be released completely, and the splint should be rewrapped more loosely.
James Kimo Takayesu, MD