The skeletal system -- consisting of 206 bones -- gives your body its shape and provides the framework for your body to move. Joints are formed when 2 or more bones are held together by ligaments, allowing body movement to occur. Injuries to the skeletal system are common in people of all ages and range in severity.
Ligament sprains are a common type of skeletal system injury. Sprains occur when excess pressure is put on a joint, causing the ligaments that hold the bones together to stretch unnaturally. Sprains range in severity based on the amount of injury sustained by the ligaments.
First-degree sprains involve overstretched ligaments that may have torn slightly. Second-degree sprains involve more extensive ligament tearing, and third-degree sprains describe ligaments that are completely torn.
Fractures and Dislocations
Bone fractures -- commonly called "broken bones" -- are skeletal system injuries that typically result from high-impact contact occurring during sports activities, falls and motor vehicle accidents. Broken bones are usually diagnosed with x-rays.
Fractures range in severity and are classified by type. Simple fractures are broken bones that are contained inside your skin. With compound fractures, the broken bones protrude through your skin. Stress fractures are tiny bone cracks. This type of fracture typically occurs in athletes as a result of overtraining.
Joint dislocations occur when severe pressure is put on ligaments, forcing the bones to move out of alignment. Dislocations are always accompanied by ligament damage and often by bone fractures.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Minor sprains can usually be treated at home with rest, ice, compression and elevation. However, fractures, dislocations and more serious sprains require diagnostic testing -- usually x-rays -- to determine the structures and amount of damage involved.
Fractures that are nondisplaced and slightly displaced fractures that can be manually set by a doctor are usually immobilized for 4 to 6 weeks while the bone heals. This involves using a brace, cast or splint to keep the injured area from moving around during the healing process. Severe ligament strains may also require immobilization during the healing process.
Severe skeletal system injuries often require surgical repair. Ligaments that are completely torn are reconstructed in surgery. Bones that are displaced or fractures that involved several pieces of broken bone need to be put back together surgically with hardware to hold them in place during healing.
Metal pins called Kirschner wires are often used for temporary fixation of a fractured bone. One end of the wire remains outside the skin for easy removal in the surgeon's office after several weeks of fixation. This wire holds the bones in place while they heal.
Open reduction internal fixation, or ORIF, is a surgical procedure that involves permanent placement of plates and screws into the damaged bones. The most severe fractures and dislocations are treated with ORIF.